Cervical Cancer

Cervical cancer is the abnormal growth of cells in the cervix, which is the lower part of the uterus opening into the vagina. The success of cervical cancer treatment depends upon the stage of the disease. If diagnosed at an early stage, the cancer is treated with surgery, radiation therapy, chemoradiation or a combination of the treatments.

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Cervical cancer is the abnormal growth of cells in the cervix area. There is the possibility of cervical cancer spreading to other parts of the body. Common symptoms of cervical cancer include abnormal vaginal bleeding, pain during sexual intercourse, pelvic pain, increased vaginal discharge, bleeding after going through menopause, etc.

The causes of cervical cancer include HPV (human papillomavirus) infection triggering abnormal growth of cervical cells, several pregnancies, giving birth at a very young age, having several sexual partners, taking birth control pills, heavy smoking, engaging in early sexual contact, socio-economic status and so on.

When a malignant tumour grows in the lower part of the uterus, it can be prevented by HPV vaccine and by PAP smear test. Tests and diagnosis help to diagnose the severity and stage of cervical cancer through CT scans, chest X-rays, PET scan, MET scan. The prognosis of cervical cancer depends upon the type and stage of the cancer. The treatment options for cervical cancer include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, etc.

Early stage of cervical cancer is limited to the cervix and therefore it has a higher treatment success rate. Surgery helps to eliminate tumours in the cervix and radiotherapy used later destroys cancer cells, if any. Besides, radiotherapy is used to stop recurrence of cancer. If needed, doctors may use chemotherapy to shrink any tumours. There are, however, certain side effects of the treatment option that include diarrhoea, narrowing of the vagina, upset stomach, nausea, bladder irritation, hair loss, fatigue, infertility, etc.

Prevention of cervical cancer is possible with cervical screening, safer sex, reducing the number of sexual partners, avoiding smoking, delaying the first sexual intercourse and having human papillomavirus vaccine.

If a woman is diagnosed with cervical cancer, the doctor recommends the right treatment option depending upon the stage and type of the cancer.

Before treatment for cervical cancer, you are generally scheduled for a stimulation session to evaluate the treatment areas. A computed tomography scan of your pelvic area is carried out. The radiation therapist marks those areas with a pen that requires the therapy.

Cervical biopsy is done to remove a very small portion of tissues taken from the cervix and is sent to the laboratory for examination. A cervical biopsy is usually done after a routine pelvic exam that shows any abnormality. Abnormalities are found in the presence of human papillomavirus or precancerous cells.

Once a patient is diagnosed with cervical cancer, the doctor decides the types of treatment to be administered- whether a radiotherapy, chemotherapy or surgery. No matter, whichever treatment option you go through based upon the stage of the cancer, your age, personal preferences and your desire to have children, these are the preparations to be taken:

  • You should stop smoking for drinking for days before the surgery.
  • Do not have sex for months before the treatment begins, as advised by your doctor.
  • You are asked to stop taking blood thinners for at least 7 days before the surgery. If you are prescribed any medicines before the surgery, take them with a small sip of water.
  • Stop drinking or eating anything from the night of the surgery day.
  • Bring specific essentials like clothes, robes, slippers, toothbrush and toothpaste to the hospital.
  • You need to take shower with a special type of medical soap as advised by your doctor before the surgery.
  • An hour before the surgery, empty your bladder and remove your clothes and change into loose clothing.

The different types of treatments for cervical cancer are performed in the following ways:

Surgery- The first stage of cervical cancer is best treated with a surgery. Procedures like cone biopsy and trachelectomy are used to remove small tumours from inside the cervix and the upper vagina. First, you are administered anaesthesia and then surgical incisions are done in the lower abdomen to perform the procedure. An advanced procedure, called pelvic exenteration is done to remove the uterus if the cancer has spread.

Radiation therapy- The procedure requires the patient to lie down still in the radiation room. Both brachytherapy and external beam therapy are used to throw radiations on the diseased areas to destroy cancerous cells.

Chemotherapy- Sometimes, chemotherapy is recommended in combination with radiation therapy. The patient has to visit the hospital for the therapy. She may be released on the same day or an overnight stay is required in case of side effects.

Targeted therapy- This is yet another cervical cancer treatment. It refers to drugs that specifically help to focus on targeted areas for killing abnormal cells. This type of drug obstructs the ability of cancerous tumours that trigger new growth of blood vessels. It is the right treatment for advanced cervical cancer.

No two cervical cancer recovery procedures are the same, since the responses and treatments vary. Doctors often refer to the term ‘’remission’’ than cure for cancer treatment. Many women may recover from cervical cancer completely, while a recurrence is possible in some cases.

In case of surgery, it takes some time for the patient to recover from the cuts and wounds. There are certain restrictions regarding smoking, drinking alcohol, and medications. However, in cases of chemotherapy and radiation therapy, patients are generally released on the same day.