Cervical cancer may occur because of numerous reasons but has a strong association with a long-standing infection with human papillomavirus (HPV). Cervical cancer occurs in the cells of the cervix (the mouth of the uterus). This cancer can affect the deeper tissues of the cervix and may spread to other parts of the body, often the lungs, liver, bladder, vagina and rectum.
Below are few common risk factors that can trigger cervical cancer:
What are the symptoms of cervical cancer?
- Dyspareunia (pain during sexual intercourse)
- Unusual vaginal bleeding, such as after sex, between periods, after menopause or after a pelvic exam
- Unusual and frequent vaginal discharge
- Lower abdominal or pelvic pain
- Trouble peeing
- Swollen legs
- Malfunctioning of kidneys
- Generalized body pains with weakness
- Weight loss and lack of appetite
How is cervical cancer diagnosed?
Usually, cervical cancer grows slowly. Cervical cancer can be diagnosed using below methods:
- Papanicolaou test (Pap smear): A Pap smear is part of a woman’s regular pelvic exam. Doctor usually collects cells from the surface of the cervix, and a technician examines them under a microscope to spot anything unusual.
- Colposcopy: It is performed if the Pap smear shows any abnormal cells. In this procedure, the cervix is stained with a harmless dye or acetic acid so that the cells are easier to observe. Then, a microscope known as colposcope is used to magnify the cervix by 8 to 15 times for identifying unusual cells for biopsy. Some patients may need another biopsy if the colposcope shows signs of invasive cancer.
- Loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP): In the LEEP, doctor usually uses an electrified loop of wire to take a sample of tissue from the cervix. Doctor can even do a conization (removal of part of your cervix) in the operating room under anesthesia. They might use a LEEP, a scalpel (cold knife conization) or a laser. LEEP and cold knife conization procedures give doctor a better look at the types of unusual cells in the cervix.
How cervical cancer is usually treated?
Cervical cancer is usually treated using below methods:
- Surgery: If the cancer is only on the surface of the cervix, doctor may remove or destroy the cancerous cells with procedures like LEEP or cold knife conization. If cancerous cells have passed through a layer called the basement membrane, which separates the surface of the cervix from underlying layers, patient may need invasive surgery. If the disease has invaded deeper layers of your cervix but hasn’t spread to other parts of your body, an operation to take out the tumor might be recommended. If it spreads into the uterus, doctor will probably recommend a hysterectomy (removing the entire uterus to decrease the chances of cancer spread).
- Radiation therapy (or radiotherapy): It uses high-energy rays to damage cancer cells and stop their growth. Sometimes, a small capsule containing radioactive material is placed in the cervix. The capsule emits cancer-killing rays close to the tumor while sparing most of the healthy tissue around it.
- Chemotherapy: It uses powerful drugs to kill cancer cells. Doctors often use it for cervical cancer that’s locally advanced and if cancer has a high chance to spread to other parts of the body.
- Biological therapy or immunotherapy: This targets checkpoints in the immune cells that are turned on or off to set off an immune response. A medicine called pembrolizumab (Keytruda) blocks a protein on the cells to shrink tumors or slow their growth. Doctors use it if chemotherapy isn’t working or if the cancer is beginning to spread.
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Gardasil (HPV Vaccine)Gardasil HPV Vaccine (Recombinant Human Papillomavirus Quadrivalent Vaccine) is a vaccine synthesized using recombinant technology. Gardasil is a single dose injection. Gardasil is for the prevention of HPV types 6, 11, 16, and 18 infections in girls and women aged 9 to 26 years. Gardasil also approved for preventing genital warts caused by HPV types 6 and 11 in males aged 9 to 26 years. Gardasil protects against cervical cancer, abnormal or precancerous cervical, vaginal, or vulvar lesions, and genital warts. Side effects of Gardasil include fever, vomiting, nausea, fainting, dizziness, pain, swelling, itching, or redness at the site of injection.
How Long Does It Take To Recover From a LEEP Procedure?LEEP is a procedure to remove cancerous tissue from the cervix, which is the lower part of the uterus located at the top of the vagina. The cervix takes about 4 to 6 weeks to recover from a LEEP procedure.
human papillomavirus vaccine, nonavalentHuman papillomavirus vaccine (HPV) vaccine, nonavalent is a vaccine used to protect against diseases and cancers caused by human papillomavirus infection, a sexually transmitted disease. Common side effects of human papillomavirus vaccine, nonavalent include injection site reactions, high temperature (pyrexia), headache, nausea, dizziness, fatigue, diarrhea, upper abdominal pain, muscle pain (myalgia), mouth and throat pain (oropharyngeal pain), influenza, and upper respiratory tract infection. Do not take if pregnant.
pembrolizumabPembrolizumab is a medication used to treat many cancers as a targeted therapy that does not directly kill cancer cells but alters a specific cell mechanism that promotes cancer growth and spread. Common side effects of pembrolizumab include fatigue, fever, pain, headache, peripheral nerve damage (neuropathy), musculoskeletal pain, joint pain (arthralgia), muscle pain (myalgia), back pain, weakness (asthenia), neck pain, muscle inflammation (myositis), joint inflammation (arthritis), decreased appetite, diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, swallowing difficulties (dysphagia), colon inflammation (colitis), and others. Do not take if pregnant or breastfeeding.
What Does the Conization of Cervix Mean?The cervix is the mouth of the uterus that opens further into the vagina. Conization or cone biopsy of the cervix is a surgical procedure in which a small cone-shaped or cylindrical wedge of tissue is removed from the cervix (mouth of the uterus).
Zejula (niraparib)Zejula is a prescription medicine used for the maintenance treatment of adults with ovarian cancer and advanced ovarian cancer, fallopian tube cancer, or primary peritoneal cancer. The most common side effects of Zejula include heart not beating regularly, changes in liver function or other blood tests, nausea, pain in your joints, muscles, and back; constipation, headache, vomiting, dizziness, pain in the stomach area, change in the way food tastes, mouth sores, trouble sleeping, diarrhea, and others. anxiety