Cervical cancer is s serious illness, which affects more than 600,000 women each year.
The risk group of women from 35 to 55 years of age. In older age, chances to become sick with cervical cancer are significantly lower. Younger women are also rarely affected by this disease. Many women with active malignancy aren’t even aware of the presence of cervical cancer, and find out about the fact that they are sick only during their regular consultation with the gynecologist. Long-term inflammatory processes that lead to the transformation of the cervical cells, scars resulting from abortion and childbirth, as well as cervical ectropion increases the risk of tumors occurrence.
Thus, a transformation of preneoplastic condition into cancer, and process requires 2 to 15 years. Initially, the tumor is located only in the cervix. Over time it can grow into nearby organs. Cancer cells can spread through the blood to other organs in other parts of the body, and cause metastatic growths to emerge.
Symptoms of cervical cancer
- White discharge from the vagina. Sometimes it is accompanied by blood. When such symptoms occur, urgent consultation with a specialist is required.
- Bloody discharge might occur after intercourse, or after physical exercise, depending on the size of the tumor and stage of the disease.
- Painful sensations during sexual intercourse.
- Menstruation period tolerated harder than with a healthy woman, and its length significantly increases.
- Over time, patients may experience pain in the abdomen and lower back. It occurs due to the pressure effect on the nerve plexus located in the pelvis.
- Rapid weight loss.
- Blood in urine.
- As the growth of tumor progresses, the patient might experience pain in her lower extremities and back.
- Urination difficulties and legs swelling.
- In advanced cases, purulent chunky discharge with foul odor occurs.
- One of the reasons which might provoke a malignant neoplasm of the cervix can be a multiple sexual partners. This is due to a damage to the microflora in the vagina, which further causes abnormalities in the structure of cells.
- Early onset of sexual activity of women (before age of 16) might also provoke cancer, since the cells at that time are not yet fully formed, and sexual activity can cause their alteration and malignization..
- Long-term use of hormonal birth-control pills, might in some cases provoke generation of cancer cells.
- Additional risk factors are: abortion, pregnancy and childbirth at an early age (before age 16), impaired immunity, smoking.
- Human papilloma virus (HPV), genital herpes and cytomegalovirus might also trigger cervical cancer.
- One of the most widely used methods of diagnosing a colposcopy. Colposcopy is a procedure, where a special device called “colposcope” is used for examination of the cervix. Colposcopy allows you to explore the affected area in detail and determine the exact tumor location, from which later material for histological examination can be taken.
- Bimanual examination and mirror examination – a visual examination of the patient at the gynecologist, which can detect cervical pathology.
- Schiller’s test – a test with application of iodine solution. The method allows the physician to determine the size and location of the lesion. Area affected by tumor cells doesn’t pick up color.
- Doctors using smears to quickly and easily determine the presence of cancer cell on the cervix
- Biopsy might be carried out for later tissue examination in the laboratory
- Ultrasound is used in order to assess the size and location of the tumor prior to surgery.
- Cystoscopy and rectoscopy are necessary to examine the rectum and the bladder.
- Intravenous urography is performed to assess kidney health and function, which might deteriorate due to cervical cancer.
- If there is a possibility that cervical cancer had spread to nearby organs, doctors perform CT of the pelvis.
Cervical cancer requires a comprehensive treatment. This complex consists of surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy or brachytherapy.
Surgical treatment is the removal of the cervix together with the tumor. In certain cases the entire uterus can be removed. It may also be necessary to remove the lymph nodes located in the pelvis, because they might contain metastasised cancer cells. Depending on the stage of the cancer and the woman’s age the decision is made whether to keep the ovaries or to remove them as well.
Radiation therapy can be required after the surgery to decrease the chances of residual tumor. It might also be used if for some reason surgery isn’t possible or ins’t effective in a particular case. In such situations, radiation therapy and chemotherapy may be the only treatment available.
During chemotherapy cytotoxic drugs are administered in order to help stop the growth and proliferation of cancer cells. Usually chemotherapy is combined with radiotherapy, because this combination treatment is considered to be much more effective. Although the side effects are quite considerable, it is still the preferred option.