Cervical cancer signs and symptoms, treatment for cervical cancer



Celebrated reality show star Jade Goody died today, March 22, 2009 after losing the battle to cervical cancer. Jade Goody came to know about the disease in the month of August when she went to participate in the Bigg Boss show in India. RestInPeace Jade. Let us know more about cervical cancer and we can protect ourselves from this disease.

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Cervical cancer ranks first among cancers in women in most developing countries. It constitutes 34 percent of all women’s cancers. The approximate global incidence of women suffering annually from cervix cancer is 500,000. Though women at all ages are at risk, cervical cancer is mostly seen in women from mid 30s to 55, with 47 being the average age.

Most people are sadly uninformed about cervical cancer. It has nothing to do with your spinal cord or your neck. It is a disease in which cancer cells are seen in the cervical tissues. The cervix, which is the lower part of the uterus, connects the vagina to the body of the uterus. The cervix is pink in color. It is covered with squamous cells, which are scale-like in appearance. The cervical canal is lined with another kind of cell, known as columnar cells The area where these two types of cells meet called T-zone or transformation zone is the likeliest area which can cause abnormal growth of cells.

How can I find out if I have cervical cancer?: In the earliest stages, it is quite difficult to ascertain if you have cervical cancer, because there are no obvious symptoms. Irregular bleeding, bleeding or pain during sex or vaginal discharge, chronic low backache which are symptoms that can be linked with cervical cancer, offers appear at an advanced stage.

Who is at risk of cervical cancer?
• Those who do unprotected sex: Most sexually active women have the chances of carrying an HPV virus which spreads through skin to skin contact with an HPV infected area. Sex at an early age, unprotected sex and multiple sex partners augments the chances of a woman’s of getting an HPV infection. In other words, HPV infection can trigger cervical cancer. Usage of condoms for the sake of unprotected sex, may not help because the virus can be passed through skin to skin contact in the genital area, that is not covered by a condom. But that does not mean, one should not use condom, it is very important to protect yourself against AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases.
• Smoking: Smoking increases the risk of the woman to contract cervical cancer. Chemical produced by tobacco smoking can damage the DNA of the cervix cells, making them cancerous.
• Chlamdiya infection: Chlamydia infection which is bacterial in nature is also a cayuse, triggered through sexual contact.
• Diet deficient in fruit and vegetables: Women who do not eat enough fruit or vegetables miss out on the antioxidant properties which keep cancers at bay. Phytochemicals like vitamins A, C, E and beta-carotene are known to prevent cervical cancers.
• HIV infection: Women who have a weak immune system from illnesses like HIV(Human Immunodeficiency Virus) can also suffer from cervical cancer.
• Long term oral contraceptives: Usage of long-term contraceptives for say 5 or more years can increase the woman’s chances of suffering from cervix cancer.
• Family history of cervical cancer: Women who have a family history of cervical cancer are also at risk. A person who has a family history of this disease may be less genetically equipped to fight of HPV infection better than other women.

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How is cervical cancer diagnosed? As mentioned before, pain or bleeding during sex or otherwise, vaginal discharge are some signs; but they do not mean you have cervical cancer. It is better if you see a doctor who will ask you to go for a Pap test .

In the Pap test, a speculum or a standard device used to examine the cervix is placed in the vagina. Cells are skimmed from the surface of cervical surface with a cotton swab and then smeared into a glass slide. Another sample is taken from the T-zone with a plastic spatula. There are new techniques known as liquid based Pap tests that gives greater degree of accuracy. The slide is dispatched to a lab where a cytotechnologist(a person who reviews the slides) and a pathologist examines the sample for any abnormalities. The pap test is usually accurate and can be used to detect cervical cancers even in the early stages. To increase the reliability of the Pap test, go to your doctor two weeks after your last menstrual period and avoid having sex, douching, using tampons or using vaginal creams,powders, suppositories, sprays etc at least 48 hours before the test.

An abnormal Pap smear report DOES NOT mean that you have cervical cancer. It just means that you have some kind of cellular change in the cells that cover the surface of the cervix. A Pap test is only a screening medium, there are other tests that are important to confirm Pap test abnormalities and diagnose the disease. You need to have some kind of follow-up, retest again after some months. Depending on the degree of the abnormality, the doctor can also recommend biopsy, colposcopy(enlarged view of the vagina and cervix) or curettage.

What should be the regularity of the Pap test:?
Screening should commence three years after a woman begins to have intercourse. It is recommended to go for a Pap test every two or three years. The combination of HPV testing with a Pap test should be considered for routine screening for women older than 30.
Is cervical cancer curable?
Yes, it is treatable and even curable in its early stages. The treatment methods involve destroying or removing the abnormal cells. There are three basic techniques involved:
1. Radiation therapy: This involves high dose energy rays or high dose X-Rays used to kill cancer cells, which can be done both at early and advanced stage of cancer.
2. Chemotherapy: This involves usage of drugs to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy is a methodical treatment where the drugs enter the bloodstream, move through the body and kill cancer cells outside the cervix. Chemotherapy can make radiation effective depending on the stage of the cancer.
3. Surgery: Surgery is used to weed-out the cancer affected area.

How can I prevent myself from cervical cancer?
Detecting pre-cancerous changes in the earliest stages through Pap test is the most effective way to prevent yourself from cervical cancer. It is usually seen that women who suffer from invasive cervical cancers are those who have not had regular Pap tests. The best protection is to reduce or eliminate risk factors. You can also go for the cervical cancer vaccine.

The Food and Drug Administration has approved a vaccine for HPV in 2006. Gardasil is recommended for women between the ages 13 to 26 to prevent infection with HPV. It is 100 percent effective in preventing HPV strains 16 and 18, which cause 70 percent of cervical cancers. Gardasil given in the form of three injections over a period of six months, is also 99 percent effective in preventing HPV strains 6 and 11, which can be the reason for 90 percent of genital wart cases. The vaccination however cannot protect you against existing HPV infection.Though Gardasil prevent majority of HPV strains, it does not completely protect against each of them, so the FDA recommends it as a foil for safe sex practices and regular Pap tests.

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