Cervical Cancer Treatment

Cervical cancer, a very common form of cancer among women, refers to a condition where malignant cells are present in the tissues of the cervix.
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What is Cervical Cancer?

Cervical cancer, the uncontrolled growth of cells in your cervix, is often caused by the human papillon virus (HPV). This virus is frequently transmitted through sexual contact.

During their sexually active years, most women will likely encounter at least one type of HPV. It's important to note that in most cases, the virus does not pose any immediate harm and typically clears up on its own. Among the numerous strains of HPV, there are two particular strains that are responsible for approximately 70% of cervical cancer cases.

Types of Cervical Cancer:

Cervical cancer can be classified into two main types, and although they affect different types of cells, the treatment approach remains the same for both.
  • Squamous cell cancer: This type of cervical cancer impacts the squamous cells, which form the outer covering of the cervix. Squamous cell cancers account for approximately 70 to 80 percent of all cervical cancer cases.
  • Adenocarcinoma: This form of cancer affects the glandular cells within the cervix responsible for producing mucus. Adenocarcinoma is less prevalent compared to squamous cell cancer, with only around 1 in 10 cervical cancer cases being classified as adenocarcinoma. However, its incidence is gradually increasing.
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Risk factors for Cervical Cancer

The primary underlying cause of cervical cancer is believed to be the presence of the genital human papillomavirus (HPV) or the genital wart virus. Nearly all cases of cervical cancer have been associated with the presence of genital HPV. However, it is important to note that the majority of women with genital HPV do not develop cervical cancer. Genital HPV is primarily transmitted through sexual contact, and as a result, the risk factors for cervical cancer are linked to sexual behavior. Some other risk factors include:
  • Smoking: Women who smoke are twice as likely to develop cervical cancer compared to non-smokers. The chemicals present in cigarette smoke can enter the cervical mucus, potentially damaging the cervix and impairing the function of Langerhans cells, which play a role in fighting against diseases.
  • Weakened immune system: Individuals with a weakened immune system, such as those with HIV/AIDS or those taking immunosuppressant drugs after an organ transplant, are at higher risk of cervical cancer if they also have an HPV infection.
  • Use of oral contraceptives (the pill): Research suggests that the risk of cervical cancer doubles for women who have taken oral contraceptives for five years or more. However, it's important to note that the overall risk remains relatively low, and oral contraceptives can provide protection against other types of cancer, such as uterine and ovarian cancers.
  • Number of children: Mothers have a higher risk of squamous cell cervical cancer compared to women without children. Additionally, the age at which a woman has her first child can influence the risk. Women who give birth before the age of 17 have a higher risk compared to those who have their first child after the age of 25. Furthermore, the number of children a woman has can impact her risk as well. Women with seven or more children have twice the likelihood of developing squamous cell cervical cancer compared to women with only one child.
Jason Yap - Consultant Gynaecologist
Consultant Gynaecologist, Gynaecological Oncologist & Lead Clinician for Vulval Disease
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What are the symptoms of cervical cancer?

In the early stages of cervical cancer, there are typically no noticeable symptoms. That's why regular medical tests are crucial for early detection. The initial screening test used is a Pap smear, which involves gently collecting cells from the outer surface of the cervix using a cotton swab, brush, or small wooden stick. These cells are then examined under a microscope. During the procedure, you may feel some pressure, but it is generally not painful. Regular screening is highly effective in identifying cervical cancer at an early stage, providing better chances for successful treatment.

What treatments are there for Cervical Cancer?

The choice of treatments for cervical cancer varies based on several factors including the stage of the disease, tumor size, a woman's age, overall physical condition, and her desire to have children. If cervical cancer is diagnosed during pregnancy, treatment may be postponed depending on the cancer stage and the remaining months of pregnancy. Generally, there are three primary treatment options for women with cervical cancer:
  • Surgery: This involves the surgical removal of the cancerous cells through an operation. The extent of surgery depends on the stage and size of the tumor.
  • Radiation therapy: High-dose x-rays or other high-energy rays are utilized in radiation therapy to destroy cancer cells.
  • Chemotherapy: Anti-cancer drugs are used in chemotherapy to target and kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy can be given alone or in combination with surgery and/or radiation therapy, depending on the specific case.
The choice of treatment is determined by a comprehensive evaluation of individual factors and is typically personalized to provide the best possible outcome for each patient.