A cervix refers to an opening between the vagina and the womb. A cancerous growth in this area is referred to as cervical cancer. It is the second most common cancer among Indian women and accounts for 22.86% of all cancer cases.
In most cases, chronic human papillomavirus (HPV) infection is the causative factor for cancer. This infection may also cause vaginal or penile cancer.
Depending on the type of cell affected, cervical cancer is of the following types:
- Squamous cell carcinoma: This is the most common type of cervical cancer which starts in the squamous or skin-like cells covering the cervix
- Adenocarcinoma: This is a rare type which starts in the glandular cells or the mucous-producing cells in the cervi
Cervical cancer is a slow-growing cancer. It may even take 15-20 years to show symptoms. The early symptoms are usually not apparent. The symptoms, however, flare up as the cancer cells begin to proliferate. The common symptoms include
- Bleeding after sexual intercourse
- Bleeding between normal periods
- Vaginal discharge with an unpleasant odour
- Pain during sex
HPV infection is the common cause of cervical cancer in women. The infection is largely transmitted through sexual intercourse. The other causes are:
- Poor immunity
The treatment strategy for cervical cancer depends on the stage and type of cancer, age, and overall health of the patient. Surgery is usually the mainstay of cancer. This is combined with chemotherapy radiation therapy, and immunotherapy.
Cancer surgery may cause damage to the eggs and alter hormone levels. This may result in loss of fertility. Before starting the treatment, the doctor will discuss plans with you. In case you are planning a baby, the doctor will make sure to preserve your fertility before starting the treatment.
- Surgery: Surgery will be performed to remove the tumour, cervix, cervix and uterus depending on the stage and severity of the cancer.
- Radiation therapy: High-energy X-rays will be used to destroy cancer cells.
- Chemotherapy: High doses of anti-cancer drugs will be administered to destroy cancer cells. In some cases, chemotherapy is combined with radiation therapy to remove cells from the body
- Targeted therapy: Certain drugs will be administered to target specific protein particles in the cancerous cells. This therapy is considered in the chances of relapse