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Cervical Cancer

What is cervical cancer?

As the name suggests, cervical cancer begins in the cervix, the lowest part of the uterus that connects to the vagina. In the majority of cases, this cancer is linked to one of several strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV). 

There’s more than one form of cervical cancer, with the two most common being adenocarcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. 

What are the symptoms of cervical cancer?

Like many other cancers, there may be no signs or symptoms in the earlier stages. However, as the disease progresses, affected individuals may begin to experience pelvic pain, pain during sex, vaginal bleeding (this can occur after sex, between periods, or post-menopause), and vaginal discharge that is bloody, watery, and foul-smelling. 

What causes cervical cancer?

While more research is necessary to understand the causes of cervical cancer, medical professionals do know that HPV plays a role. While most people who contract this sexually transmitted infection (STI) do not develop this cancer, some people see the virus remain in their systems for years as it contributes to the development of the disease. 

While more research is needed, a number of risk factors have been identified already. These include having many sexual partners, smoking, STIs, early sexual activity, a weakened immune system, and exposure to diethylstilbestrol – a miscarriage prevention drug used in the 1950s. 

How is cervical cancer diagnosed?

In some cases, this cancer is discovered through screening tests, like Pap smears. That’s why it is so important to go for regular screenings. In other cases, doctors will begin by examining the cervix with a colposcope. During this time, they will take a tissue sample for a biopsy. If this test comes back with results pointing towards cervical cancer, doctors will continue forward with one of these two tests: cone biopsy or electrical wire loop. 

If a doctor definitively diagnoses cervical cancer, the next step is to stage it. This can be done through PET scans, MRIs, CT scans, X-rays, and visual exams of the rectum and bladder. 

What are the treatments for cervical cancer?

Treatment depends on the cancer’s stage, patient preference, and other factors. Doctors may utilize surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or a combination. Targeted therapy and immunotherapy may also be used, and palliative care will be utilized alongside all other options. 

There are also steps one can take to prevent cervical cancer, such as receiving the HPV vaccine, avoiding smoking, getting regular Pap smears, and practicing safe sex. 

Where can I find out more about cervical cancer?

Cervical Cancer Articles