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Signs and Symptoms of Cervical Cancer: What Every Woman Should Know

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Cervical cancer in women is a very severe health concern that affects women worldwide. Women need to know the signs and symptoms associated with this condition, as early detection can greatly enhance the chances of successful treatment.

In this blog, we will explore the various aspects of cervical cancer in women, including its prevalence, risk factors, common symptoms, stages, and different types of cervical cancer. By understanding these key aspects, women can empower themselves with knowledge and take proactive steps towards their health.

Understanding Cervical Cancer in Women

A. Definition and Risk Factors

Cervical cancer is a form of cancer that happens in the cells of the cervix. It is most commonly due to the human papillomavirus (HPV). Other risk factors could be smoking, a weak immune system, early sexual activity, multiple sexual partners, and a family history of cervical cancer. Knowing these risk factors can help women make informed choices regarding their sexual health and lifestyle.

B. Cervical Cancer in Women

Cervical cancer is a significant health concern for women worldwide. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), it is estimated that approximately 570,000 new cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed each year, with over 90% of cervical cancer deaths occurring in low- and middle-income countries.

Age is also a factor, with the majority of cases diagnosed in women between the ages of 35 and 44. Regular cervical cancer screenings like Pap smears and HPV tests, are crucial for early detection and treatment.

Early Warning Signs of Cervical Cancer

A. Asymptomatic Stage

In the early stages of cervical cancer, women may not experience any noticeable signs of cervical cancer. This emphasises the importance of regular screenings and routine check-ups with healthcare professionals. Even in the absence of symptoms, screenings might diagnose precancerous changes in your cervix, allowing for timely intervention.

B. Warning Signs of cervical cancer

While cervical cancer may be asymptomatic in its early stages, certain signs of cervical cancer may manifest as the disease progresses. It is essential for women to be vigilant and seek medical attention if they experience any of the following:

  1. Abnormal vaginal bleeding: Unusual bleeding between periods, after sexual intercourse, or after menopause could be a warning sign of cervical cancer. It is important not to ignore such changes and consult a healthcare provider promptly.
  2. Unusual vaginal discharge: An increase in the amount, colour, consistency, or odour of vaginal discharge may indicate an abnormality in the cervix. If there are any notable changes, it is advisable to seek medical evaluation.
  3. Pelvic pain or discomfort: Persistent pain or discomfort in the pelvis, lower back, or during sexual intercourse should not be overlooked. While these symptoms can have various causes, they could be indicative of cervical cancer in some cases.
  4. Changes in urinary or bowel habits: Cervical cancer can sometimes affect nearby structures, leading to urinary urgency, increased frequency of urination, constipation, or rectal bleeding. These changes warrant medical attention for proper evaluation.

Cervical Cancer Stages

A. Overview of Staging

Cervical cancer is classified into stages based on the TNM (Tumour, Node, Metastasis) system, which evaluates the size and extent of the tumour, involvement of lymph nodes, and the presence of metastasis (spread to distant organs). The staging system helps determine the appropriate treatment approach and prognosis.

B. Stage 0 (Carcinoma in Situ)

Stage 0, also known as carcinoma in situ or cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN), refers to the presence of abnormal cells confined to the surface layer of the cervix. At this stage, the cancer has not invaded deeper tissues or spread to nearby lymph nodes or distant organs. Early detection and treatment of stage 0 can prevent the development of invasive cervical cancer.

C. Cervical Cancer Stages I and II

In stages I and II, the tumour grows within the cervix and may extend into nearby tissues. It may or may not involve the lymph nodes. The size and extent of the tumour, as well as its spread to nearby structures, determine the specific stage. Treatment options at these stages may involve surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or a combination of these modalities.

D. Cervical Cancer Stages III and IV

Stages III and IV represent advanced cervical cancer. At this point, the tumour has spread to the lower part of the vagina, the pelvic wall, or adjacent organs. In stage IV, the cancer has metastasized to far away organs like the lungs, liver, or bones. Treatment options at these stages focus on palliative care to manage symptoms and improve the quality of life.

Types of Cervical Cancer

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

This is the most prevalent type of cervical cancer, accounting for approximately 80-90% of cases. It originates in the squamous cells lining the cervix. The presence of HPV infection, particularly high-risk strains, is strongly linked with the development of this cancer.

Adenocarcinoma

Adenocarcinoma is a less common type of cervical cancer, accounting for about 10-20% of cases. It develops in the glandular cells that produce mucus in the cervical canal. Adenocarcinoma is also associated with HPV infection, particularly infection with certain subtypes.

Other Types

While squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma are the most prevalent types of cervical cancer, there are other, rarer forms. These include adenosquamous carcinoma, a combination of squamous and glandular cell features, as well as small cell carcinoma and neuroendocrine tumours, which are highly aggressive but uncommon.

Conclusion

Cervical cancer is a significant health concern for women, but with awareness and early detection, it can be successfully treated. By familiarising themselves with the signs and symptoms, as well as the cervical cancer stages and types, women can take a proactive approach to their health.

Regular screenings, vaccination against HPV, practising safe sex, and leading a healthy lifestyle can contribute to the prevention and early diagnosis of cervical cancer. Remember, knowledge is power when it comes to protecting oneself against this disease.

Consult an expert gynaecology oncologist today to get expert advice and counselling on cervical cancer!

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