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Friday, July 12, 2024

Why Does Cervical Cancer Occur: Causes, Symptoms, And Treatment Options

Cervical cancer is a serious and potentially life-threatening disease that affects thousands of women worldwide. It is important to understand the causes, symptoms, and treatment options associated with cervical cancer in order to promote early detection, effective management, and improved outcomes for patients. In this blog post, we will explore the key aspects of cervical cancer, providing valuable insights to increase awareness and empower individuals to take control of their health. Join us on this journey to gain a comprehensive understanding of cervical cancer and its impact on women’s health. 

Why Does Cervical Cancer Occur? Cervical cancer occurs primarily due to a long-term infection with certain types of the human papillomavirus (HPV), particularly high-risk strains such as HPV-16 and HPV-18.

Causes of Cervical Cancer:

Cervical cancer is primarily caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). Specific types of HPV, particularly high-risk strains such as HPV 16 and 18, are responsible for the majority of cervical cancer cases. 

HPV Infection: 

High-risk strains of HPV, such as types 16 and 18, are strongly associated with the development of cervical cancer. HPV is transmitted through sexual contact, and early sexual activity, multiple sexual partners, and a history of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can increase the risk of HPV infection.

Weakened Immune System: 

A weakened immune system, often associated with conditions such as HIV/AIDS, can make individuals more susceptible to HPV infection and less able to clear the virus from their system, increasing the risk of cervical cancer development.

Smoking: 

Smoking tobacco increases the risk of developing cervical cancer. Chemicals in tobacco smoke can damage the DNA of cervical cells and weaken the immune system, making it harder to clear HPV infections.

Long-term Use of Oral Contraceptives: 

Women who have used oral contraceptives (birth control pills) for an extended period, typically five years or more, have a slightly higher risk of developing cervical cancer. The reasons for this association are not yet fully understood.

Genetic Factors: 

Certain genetic factors may play a role in an individual’s susceptibility to cervical cancer. These genetic variations can affect the immune response, making it less effective in clearing HPV infections.

Symptoms of Cervical Cancer:

Early-stage cervical cancer often exhibits no noticeable symptoms, emphasising the importance of regular screenings. However, as the disease progresses, the following symptoms may manifest:

Abnormal Vaginal Bleeding: 

One of the most common symptoms of cervical cancer is abnormal vaginal bleeding. This may include bleeding between periods, after sexual intercourse, or after menopause. It may be characterised by heavier or longer periods than usual.

Unusual Vaginal Discharge: 

Cervical cancer can cause changes in vaginal discharge. You may notice increased discharge that is watery, thick, or foul-smelling. It may contain traces of blood.

Pelvic Pain or Discomfort: 

As cervical cancer advances, it can cause pelvic pain or discomfort. You may experience pain during sexual intercourse (dyspareunia), pain in the lower abdomen or pelvis, or pain during urination.

Pain during Intercourse: 

Some women may experience pain or discomfort during sexual intercourse. This can be a result of the tumour growth affecting the cervix or surrounding tissues.

Back or Leg Pain: 

Advanced cervical cancer may spread to other parts of the body, such as the back or legs. This can cause persistent pain in these areas.

Fatigue and Weight Loss: 

In later stages of cervical cancer, you may experience unexplained weight loss and fatigue. Cancer can disrupt the body’s metabolism and energy levels, leading to these symptoms.

Diagnosis of Cervical Cancer:

Diagnosing cervical cancer typically involves a series of procedures, including:

  • Pap smear test: This screening technique detects abnormal cervical cells, allowing for early detection.
  • Colposcopy and biopsy: If abnormal cells are found during a Pap smear, a colposcopy may be performed to closely examine the cervix and obtain tissue samples for biopsy.
  • Imaging tests (MRI, CT scan, etc.): These imaging techniques help determine the extent of cancer spread, aiding in treatment planning.

Treatment Options for Cervical Cancer:

The treatment of cervical cancer depends on several factors, including the stage of the cancer, the size and location of the tumour, the woman’s overall health, and her desire for future fertility. The main treatment options for cervical cancer include:

Surgery: 

Surgical procedures may be used to remove cancerous tissues. The type of surgery depends on the stage and extent of the cancer. Examples of surgical procedures for cervical cancer include:

Cone Biopsy or Loop Electrosurgical Excision Procedure (LEEP): These procedures involve removing a cone-shaped piece of tissue from the cervix that contains the cancerous cells. They are typically used for early-stage cervical cancer or to remove precancerous cells.

Radical Hysterectomy: This surgical procedure involves the removal of the uterus, cervix, and surrounding tissues, including nearby lymph nodes. It may be recommended for early-stage cervical cancer that has not spread beyond the cervix.

Radiation Therapy: Radiation therapy uses high-energy beams to kill cancer cells or shrink tumours. It is often used in combination with other treatments and can be administered in two ways:

External Beam Radiation: In this type of radiation therapy, a machine delivers radiation from outside the body, precisely targeting the cancer cells.

Brachytherapy: Brachytherapy involves the placement of a radioactive source near or inside the cervix. This allows for a higher dose of radiation to be delivered directly to the tumour while reducing the impact on surrounding healthy tissues.

Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells or inhibit their growth. It can be administered orally or intravenously, and it is often used in combination with other treatments. Chemotherapy may be recommended for advanced-stage cervical cancer or to target cancer cells that have spread to other parts of the body.

Immunotherapy: Immunotherapy harnesses the body’s immune system to recognize and destroy cancer cells. It works by stimulating the immune response or blocking the mechanisms that allow cancer cells to evade the immune system. Immunotherapy may be used in certain cases of recurrent or advanced cervical cancer.

Prevention and Vaccination:

Prevention is crucial in reducing the risk of cervical cancer. Key preventive measures include:

– HPV vaccination: Vaccinating young individuals against HPV significantly reduces the risk of cervical cancer and other HPV-related diseases.

– Regular cervical cancer screenings: Undergoing routine Pap smears and follow-up tests is vital for early detection and intervention.

– Safer sexual practices: Practising safe sex, such as using condoms, can help reduce HPV transmission.

– Smoking cessation: Quitting smoking lowers the risk of developing cervical cancer and various other cancers.

Conclusion:

Understanding the causes, symptoms, and available treatment options for cervical cancer is essential in promoting early detection and effective management of the disease. By spreading awareness and encouraging preventive measures like HPV vaccination and regular screenings, we can make significant strides in reducing the burden of cervical cancer and protecting women’s health.

Jassica Handley
Jassica Handley
Jessica Handley is a medical writer freelancer who has written thousands of articles on varying topics, and she looks forward to seeing how can help human beings for every purpose. The health and medical field can be difficult to navigate without the proper experience, which is why her training and Master of Engineering degree in Biomedical Engineering sets her apart from other writers.
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