Introduction to Cervical Cancer
Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that develops from the opening to the womb, known as the cervix.
What is Cervical Cancer?
Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that develops from the opening to the womb, known as the cervix. The incidence of the condition has been reduced over the last 10 years, now affecting around 3000 new women each year. If the cancer is picked up in its early stages, treatment is usually extremely effective. Therefore, if you think you are experiencing symptoms associated with cervical cancer, please see your gynaecologist or GP.
What causes Cervical Cancer?
Cervical cancer is caused by a genetic mutation in the cells of the cervix, almost always as a result of infection by the human papilloma virus (HPV). The virus is spread during sexual intercourse and skin-to-skin contact of genital regions. The virus itself is very common, affecting around 4 in 5 women at some point during their lives. Therefore, to reduce your risk of developing cervical cancer, condom use is beneficial. Furthermore, a vaccine called Gardasil is available, which protects against several strains of HPV.
Since HPV infection is so common, yet cervical cancer is far less common, other factors are thought to affect your risk of developing the condition. These include smoking, having a weakened immune system (due to drugs or disease), taking the oral contraceptive pill for more than five years and having children.
What are the symptoms of Cervical Cancer?
The most common symptom of cervical cancer is unusual bleeding from the vagina. This is bleeding not associated with your period. In addition, you may experience pain and foul smelling vaginal discharge.
In later stages of the disease, the cancer spreads to other tissues around the body. At this point, it can cause a host of additional symptoms including blood in the urine (haematuria), urinary incontinence, constipation, loss of appetite and weight loss.
How is Cervical Cancer treated?
Treatment of cervical cancer depends on several factors including the type of cancer and how far it has spread. If treated in its early stages, there is a good chance of a complete cure. Treatment is usually based around removal of cancerous cells, radiotherapy or chemotherapy. Removal of abnormal cells may be carried out by radical trachelectomy, in which the womb is left in place to maintain childbearing potential, or hysterectomy in which the womb is included. Ultimately, treatment your decision, catered to your needs and wishes.