The cervix is part of a woman’s reproductive system which lies in the pelvis. It is the lower and narrow part of the uterus which connects uterus to vagina. It is a part responsible for making mucus helps sperm move from the vagina through the cervix into the uterus during intercourse.
During pregnancy, the cervix is tightly closed to help keep the baby inside the uterus. During delivery, the cervix opens to allow the baby to pass through the vagina.
Growths on the cervix can be benign or malignant. Benign growths are not cancer. They are not as harmful as malignant growths (cancer). Benign growths such as polyps or cysts are rarely a threat to life.
Malignant growths (cervical cancer): may sometimes be a threat to life as they can invade nearby tissues and organs and can spread to other parts of the body Cervical cancer starts growing on the cellsof the surface of the cervix. Gradually, it can invade more deeply into the cervix and nearby tissues. The spread of cancer is called metastasis.
Risk factors and causes of cervical cancer
Doctors cannot always explain why one woman develops cervical cancer and another does not. However, we do know that a woman with certain risk factors may be more likely than others to develop cervical cancer. A risk factor is something that may increase the chance of developing a disease.
Studies have found a number of factors that may increase the risk of cervical cancer. For example, infection with HPV (human papillomavirus) is the main cause of cervical cancer.
1. HPV infection: HPV is a group of viruses that can infect the cervix. An HPV infection that is left untreated can cause cervical cancer in some women. HPV is the cause of nearly all cervical cancers.
HPV infections are very common and is considered as a sexually transmitted disorder. These viruses are passed from person to person through sexual contact. Most adults have been infected with HPV at some time in their lives, but most infections clear up without any treatment with time.
Some types of HPV can cause changes to cells in the cervix. If these changes are diagnosed inearlier stages, then the cervical cancer can be prevented by removing or killing the changed cells before they can become cancer cells.
A vaccine for females ages 9 to 26 has been introduced that protects against two types of HPV infection that cause cervical cancer.
2: Absence of Pap tests: Cervical cancer is more common among women who don’t have regular Pap tests. The Pap test helps to find out cancerous cells. Removing or killing of these cells usually prevents cervical cancer.
3: Smoking: Smoking cigarettes slightly increases the risk of cervical cancer among HPV infected women.
4: Weak immune system: Immune system is the body’s natural defense system HIV infections or taking drugs that suppress the immune system increases the risk of cervical cancer.
5: Sexual history: Women who have had multi sexual partners are more prone to develop cervical cancer. Also, a woman who has had sex with a man who has had many sexual partners may be at higher risk of developing cervical cancer. In both cases, the risk of developing cervical cancer is higher because these women have a higher risk of HPV infection.
6: Use of Contraceptive pills for longer period: Use of contraceptive pills formore than 5 or more years may slightly increase the risk of cervical cancer among women with HPV infection. However, the risk decreases quickly when women stop using birth control pills.
Symptoms of Cervical Cancer
Cervical cancers usually don’t show symptoms in early stages. When the cancer reaches its advanced stage and becomes larger, women may notice one of the following symptoms:
1) Abnormal bleeding through vagina which occurs in between the menstrual
2) Bleeding after every sexual intercourse
3) Menstrual periods that last for a longerperiod andflow is heavier than before.
4) Bleeding after going through menopause
5) Increased vaginal discharge, painin pelvic area and Pain during sex.
Infections or other health problems may also cause these symptoms.
Stages of Cervical Cancer
The stage is based on where cancer is found. Stages of invasive cervical cancer are as follows:
• Stage I: When the tumor has invaded the cervix beneath the top layer of cells and the cancer cells are found only in the cervix.
• Stage II: In this stage the tumor extends to the upper part of the vagina. It may also extend beyond the cervix into nearby tissues towards the wall of pelviswhich isthe lining of the part of the body between the hips. Here, the tumor does not enter the lower third of the vagina or the pelvic wall.
• Stage III: Now the tumor extends to the lower part of the vaginaand may also have invaded the pelvic wall. If this tumor blocks the flow of urine, one or both of the kidneys may start malfunctioning and further lead to Kidney failure.
• Stage IV: The tumor invades the urinary bladder and the cancer spreads to other parts of the body.
• Recurrent cancer: Sometimes after the cancer has been treated, but has returned after a period of time during which it could not be detected it is called recurrent cancer. The cancer may show up again in the cervix or in other parts of the body.
Prevention of Cervix cancer
• Causes of cervix cancer should be identified.
• Regular pelvic exams and Pap testing should regularly be done to help detect precancerous changes in the cervix.
• Precancerous changes in the cervix may be treated with cryosurgery, cauterization, or laser treatment.
• The most common symptom of cancer of the cervix is abnormal bleeding through vagina to which women should respond immediately and should consult a doctor.
• Cancer of the cervix can be diagnosed using a Pap test or other procedures using the samples ofthe cervix tissue.
• Cancer of the cervix requires different treatment than cancer that begins in other parts of the uterus.