FLU VACCINE 2024 IS NOW AVAILABLE
Wells Road Medical Centre

Cervical Cancer: Understanding the Signs and Symptoms

As a leading cause of worldwide death, cancer comprises various types. In fourth place is cervical cancer, known to cause around 350.000 deaths of women worldwide in 2022. This number alone shows that women must be aware to detect this cancer before it develops into severe cases.

In this blog post, we’ll learn about cervical cancer, its types, stages, causes, signs and symptoms, and preventive steps. Read on!

What is Cervical Cancer?

A woman holding her stomach because of pain

A woman holding her stomach because of pain

Living up to its name, cervical cancer is a cancer that starts in a woman’s cervix, which is located in the lower, narrow part of the uterus (womb) and connected to the vagina.

This condition happens when the cells in the cervical tissue shift to abnormal, precancerous cells—also known as dysplasia. Although these cells can turn into cancerous cells, in some cases, they don’t. However, it is wise to destroy and remove them before they grow into dangerous cancer cells.

Types of Cervical Cancer

A doctor explaining about uterus condition to her patient

A doctor explaining about uterus condition to her patient

There are mainly two cervical cancer types, which are adenocarcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma—called after the cell type where the cancer started. Here are the differences:

Adenocarcinoma

This cervical cancer type starts in the glandular cells of the endocervix. One of the rare types of its cell is clear cell carcinoma or mesonephroma.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Squamous cell carcinoma starts from cells located in the ectocervix. Most cervical cancers are this cancer type.

Cervical cancer can sometimes be a mix of two types, known as mixed carcinoma or adenosquamous carcinoma. Also, it’s very rare for cancer to start in other types of cells in the cervix.

What are the Stages of Cervical Cancer?

A uterus model hold by two hands

A uterus model hold by two hands

Cervical cancer consists of four stages, which are:

      1. Stage I: Small cancer found in the cervix.

      1. Stage II: The cancer has spread outside the cervix and uterus.

      1. Stage III: The cancer has extended to the lower area of the vagina and possibly to the pelvic wall, the ureters, and the lymph nodes close by.

      1. Stage IV: The cancer has spread to other body parts like the rectum, bladder, and even bones or lungs.

    What Causes Cervical Cancer?

    A uterus and a blue ribbon

    A uterus and a blue ribbon

    Primarily, this condition is caused by an infection with several types of the human papillomavirus (HPV), which is a virus commonly transmitted through sexual contact (both vaginal or anal).

    While HPV is widespread and often cleared by the immune system without causing any issues, in some cases, it can survive for years and contribute to the process that turns some abnormal cells into cancer cells.

    Other risk factors include:

        • Having multiple sexual partners

        • Engaging in early sexual activity

        • Smoking

        • Having other sexually transmitted infections like gonorrhea, chlamydia, or HIV/AIDS

      However, not all HPV types cause cervical cancer; some may lead to genital warts, while others may not cause any symptoms at all. 

      What are the Most Frequent Signs and Symptoms of Cervical Cancer?

      A woman with painful abdomen

      A woman with painful abdomen

      Each cervical cancer stage shows different signs and symptoms.

      For the initial stage, you may notice some of these signs or symptoms:

          • Vaginal bleeding between menstrual periods

          • Pain and bleeding after intercourse

          • Vaginal bleeding after menopause

          • Longer and heavier menstrual periods

          • Changing vaginal discharge, such as foul odour, heavy consistency, or even bloody

        When the cancer cells have already spread to other parts of the body, these symptoms may appear:

            • Pelvic pain

            • Painful or difficult urination

            • Illness in general

            • Leg swelling

            • Backache dull

            • Fatigue

          To ensure a correct diagnosis, consult a healthcare professional.

          Prevention of Cervical Cancer

          A uterus model and doctor essentials

          A uterus model and doctor essentials

          The Department of Health and Aged Care of the Australian Government conducts a national cervical screening program every five years as a preventive measure to reduce death or illness from cervical cancer.

          Besides joining the program, you can also do other prevention efforts, such as: 

          Ask Your Doctor about the HPV Vaccine

          The HPV vaccine has been a part of the WHO-recommended vaccination routine for worldwide countries. The HPV vaccination helps prevent many types of HPV infection, which also leads to lower cervical cancer risk. Consult your doctor if it’s recommended for you to take this preventive measure.

          Practice Safe Sex

          Practising safe sex includes using a condom during sex and not changing partners. This way, you’ll reduce the risk of cervical cancer due to sexually transmitted infections.

          Have Routine Pap Tests

          Taking a routine Pap test (Pap smear) is beneficial for early detection and treatment of precancerous conditions. You can take this test as early as 21 years old.

          Don’t Smoke

          Quit smoking at all costs not only to lower the risk of developing cervical cancer but also to maintain your overall body health condition. If you find it hard to quit, consult your doctor.

          Frequently Asked Questions

          Some tests for cervical cancer are pap test, HPV test, colposcopy, imaging tests (MRI, CT scan, PET-CT scan), and biopsies (endocervical curettage, punch biopsy, LEEP, cone biopsy).

          The only way to make sure you have cervical cancer is by getting a cervical screening test in the nearby healthcare centre.
           
          Cervical cancer itself doesn’t affect fertility. However, some may experience infertility as a side effect after a cervical cancer treatment.

           

           

          Conclusion

          A Pap smear, also typically called a Pap test, is a cervical screening test that identifies precancerous cells in the cervix, aiding early cancer detection. If you fall within the age group for routine Pap smears, it’s essential to have them regularly to prevent cancerous cells from spreading beyond the cervix. Wells Road Medical Centre provides cervical screening services, ensuring timely and effective care. Contact us now!