Annually, in the United States alone, nearly 14,000 new cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed, and approximately 4,000 people are killed by this form of cancer. Cervical cancer is a type of malignant tumor found in the lower region of the uterus that if permitted to continue growing, is subject to spread into and affect surrounding areas.
There are two types of cervical cancer which are named based on the location from which the cell originated. The two primary kinds of Cervical Cancers are Squamous Cell Carcinoma, and Adenocarcinoma. A large amount of diagnosed Cervical Cancer cases (nearly 90%) are caused by cells in the ectocervix – the outermost part of the cervix that opens into the vagina. The Endocervix, covered in Glandular cells, forms a canal that connects the Vagina to the Uterus & produces mucus. Cervical Adenocarcinomas develop within these cells. Although uncommon, some cases of Cervical Cancer possess features of both types of carcinoma, called Mixed or Adenosquamous Carcinoma.
Symptoms of early-stage cervical cancer include: increased vaginal discharge, bleeding after sexual intercourse, postmenopausal spotting/bleeding, and irregular spotting or light bleeding between menstrual cycles in women of reproductive age. As the cancer develops more severe symptoms may be experienced such as: foul-smelling discharge and vaginal discomfort, weight loss, fatigue, loss of appetite, persistent back/leg/pelvic pain, or swelling of a leg or both lower extremities. While inclusive, this list is not exhaustive, and other symptoms may arise as the cancer progresses.
Greater than 95% of all Cervical Cancers are caused by or can be attributed to the Human Papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is the most sexually transmitted infection, and the most common viral infection of the reproductive tract. Although most commonly spread through sexual intercourse HPV may still be passed through labor, pregnancy, as well as nursing. With Cervical Cancer being the most common HPV-related disease, it is highly urged to become vaccinated against HPV, in efforts to eliminate the chances of contracting either disease. Once recognized as a public health problem, the World Health Assembly outlined a global strategy toward eliminating the disease as such. The prevention method for Cervical Cancer is multidisciplinary, including components from Social Mobilization, Vaccination, Screening, Treatment & Palliative Care, and Community Education. It is a multi-layered approach with Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary Prevention methods. Primary prevention methods include administering the HPV vaccine to young people between ages 9-14. It is urged to provide Health Information/Warnings regarding tobacco use, and Sex education tailored to age and culture to young adults. Condom promotion/provision for those engaged in sexual activity, and male circumcision are encouraged within Primary prevention as well. The Secondary prevention stage is specifically geared toward people above age 30 in the general population, and people above 25 who live with HIV. For this prevention stage, screenings with a high-performance test equivalent or better than HPV tests are recommended. These are to be followed immediately by treatment or as quickly after an HPV molecular positive test as possible. Tertiary prevention encompasses treatment of invasive cancer at any age through Surgery, Radiotherapy, Chemotherapy, and Palliative Care.
If treatment for pre-cancer is needed, Ablative treatment with Cryotherapy or Thermal Ablation are the recommended methods. While the treatments are performed following different procedures and mechanisms, both treatment methods are equally effective and safe! If the presence of Cervical Cancer is suspected, Evaluations, Biopsies, and Excision treatments are offered.