Cervical cancer used to be the number one cause of female cancer death nationwide before the advent of the Pap smear test in the 1940s. Today, women have a far lower chance of death from cervical cancer, especially with early detection from routine Pap smear tests
The cervix is part of the female anatomy, sometimes called “the neck of the womb,” which is located at the lowest part of the uterus and joins at the upper part of the vagina. The cervix allows menstrual fluid to flow through it, and allows sperm to enter. During childbirth, the cervix dilates up to 10 centimeters in diameter for the infant to pass through the vagina.
Cervical cancer remains a common gynecological problem, with more than 12,000 women being diagnosed with disease in the U.S. every year. It can be diagnosed by finding malignant cells in the tissues of the woman’s cervix. The cervix goes through changes as these abnormal cells appear, called dysplasia. These changes can cause cervical cancer to grow slowly over a period of time, usually without presenting any symptoms.
Symptoms of cervical cancer are usually not detected until the tumor is more widely spread. As the cancer progresses, these symptoms typically begin to appear:
- Vaginal bleeding following sexual contact, between periods of after menopause
- Vaginal discharge that is a heavy bloody and watery mixture, that may have a foul smell
- Pelvic pain, especially during intercourse
Cervical Cancer Prevention
The tried and true method to prevent cervical cancer, or to detect it early, is through a regular Pap smear, done during a routine examination on a yearly basis, or every other year. It is particularly important because symptoms usually are not noticeable until the tumor is more progressed, and nearly one-third of women who are diagnosed with cervical cancer once they notice their symptoms will eventually die from the disease.
If abnormal cells are found on a Pap smear, then your doctor will likely recommend a second Pap smear, where a colposcopy is performed. A colposcopy involves magnifying the tissues of the cervix to look for abnormal cells. A biopsy of these cells is taken to determine the cause of the problem, and to determine a treatment route.
Other methods to prevent cervical cancer include:
- Use a condom each and every time you have sexual contact, which reduces your odds of contracting HPV, which often leads to cervical cancer.
- Have fewer sexual partners.
- Avoid smoking.
- Get vaccinated against HPV between the ages of 9 and 26 years old.
Depending on the stage of the cancer, the tumor size, age of the patient, her overall physical health, and her desire to have children in the future, treatment will vary. There are three types of treatment that are typically done for cervical cancer, based on these factors and the patient’s wishes:
- Tumor removal, called a hysterectomy. This is usually done when the cancer is in its early stages and confined to the cervix/or uterus.
- Radiation therapy (high dose x-rays or high-energy rays kill cancer cells)
- Chemotherapy (drugs kill cancer cells)
Cervical cancer can be treated, and West Medical is the place to do so. We're here to help diagnose and treat your condition. To learn more about cervical cancer, or to schedule a Pap Smear, call us at (855) 690-0565. We look forward to speaking with you soon.
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