Health Desk- Cervical cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in the lining of the cervix. The cervix is part of the female reproductive system and is located in the lower part of the womb, the opening from the womb to the vagina. This cancer is also known as uterine cancer. Cervical cancer ranks fourth among all cancers and at present one person dies every 2 minutes from this disease. Importantly, it is the leading cause of cancer death among women in 42 countries.
Causes of cervical cancer-
Most cervical cancers are caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. HPV is a group of viruses that are extremely common around the world. There are more than 100 types of HPV, of which at least 14 are known to cause cancer (also called high-risk types). Two HPV types (16 and 18) cause 70 percent of cervical cancers and precancerous cervical lesions. There is also evidence linking HPV to cancer of the anus, vulva, vagina, penis, and oropharynx.
Symptoms of cervical cancer-
The most common symptoms of cervical cancer are:
- Bleeding between periods.
- Bleeding after intercourse.
- Bleeding after menopause.
- Discomfort or bleeding during intercourse.
- Discharge from the vagina with a strong odor.
- Vaginal discharge with blood.
- Feeling pain while urinating.
Cervical cancer stage-
Figuring out the stage of cancer is important, as it helps a person decide on the most effective type of treatment. The purpose of staging is to assess how far the cancer has spread and whether it has reached nearby structures or more distant organs.
Stage 0: Precancerous cells are present.
Stage 1: Cancer cells have grown from the surface into deeper tissues of the cervix and possibly into the uterus and nearby lymph nodes.
Stage 2: The cancer has now grown beyond the cervix and uterus, but has not reached the pelvic walls or the lower part of the vagina. It may or may not affect nearby lymph nodes.
Stage 3: Cancer cells are present in the lower part of the vagina or in the walls of the pelvis, and can block the ureters, the tubes that carry urine from the bladder. It may or may not affect nearby lymph nodes.
Stage 4: The cancer affects the bladder or rectum and is growing outside the pelvis. It may or may not affect the lymph nodes. Later in stage 4, it will spread to distant organs including the liver, bones, lungs, and lymph nodes.
Cervical cancer treatment-
The aim of surgery is to remove as much of the cancer as possible. Sometimes the doctor may only remove the area of the cervix that contains cancer cells. For cancer that is more extensive, surgery may include removal of the cervix and other organs in the pelvis.
2. Radiation therapy-
Radiation kills cancer cells using high-energy X-ray beams. It can be delivered outside the body through a machine. It can also be delivered from inside the body using a metal tube placed in the uterus or vagina.
Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells throughout the body. Doctor this treatment is given in cycles. You’ll get chemo for a while. You will then stop treatment to give your body time to recover.
Risk factors for cervical cancer-
Risk factors for cervical cancer include:
1. Multiple sexual partners- The greater the number of sex partners you have — and the greater the number of sex partners your partner has — the higher your chances of getting HPV.
2. Early sexual activity- Having sex at a young age increases the risk of HPV.
3.Other sexually transmitted infections (STIs)- Having other STIs — such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis and HIV/AIDS — increases your risk of HPV.
4. A weak immune system- If your immune system is weakened by another health condition and you have HPV, you may be more likely to get cervical cancer.
5. Smoking- Smoking is associated with squamous cell cervical cancer.
6.Prevention of abortion exposure to the drug- If your mother took a drug called diethylstilbestrol (DES) while she was pregnant in the 1950s, you may have an increased risk of a certain type of cervical cancer called clear cell adenocarcinoma.
Beat the side effects like this after the treatment of cervical cancer-
Every cancer treatment can cause side effects or changes in your body that make you feel uncomfortable. For many reasons, people experience different side effects even when given the same treatment for the same type of cancer. This makes it difficult to predict how you will feel during treatment Cervical cancer Cancer begins when abnormal cells in the lining of the cervix begin to grow uncontrollably.
Cancer usually starts in the area of cervical cancer, but it can spread to nearby tissues of the cervix, such as the vagina, or to other parts of the body, such as lymph nodes, lungs, or liver.
How to deal with the side effects of radiation therapy?
The most common side effects of radiation therapy are-
- Skin irritation
- Frequent urination
- Vaginal pain
- Irregular menstruation or early menopause
- Increased chance of infection on injury
As with all chemotherapy, many of the side effects of radiation therapy can be corrected with the help of medicines. Patients are advised to wear loose clothing to help reduce skin irritation, as tight clothing may prevent proper application of the medicated lotion to the body. Vaginal pain usually lasts for a few weeks after treatment is completed, but patients can use a lubricant and temporarily avoid sexual intercourse to avoid discomfort.
How to deal with the side effects of chemotherapy?
The most common side effects of chemotherapy include-
- Hair loss
- Loss of appetite
- Mouth ulcers
- Increased chance of infection on injury
Anti-nausea medications are commonly used to help prevent vomiting during cancer treatment for cervical cancer. Steroids may be used to eliminate loss of appetite and blood transfusion may be used to reduce the chance of infection and bleeding. Over-the-counter oral medications can also reduce the pain of mouth sores.
How to deal with the side effects of surgery?
After cervical cancer surgery, some women experience pain, cramping, and difficulty with urination and bowel movements. Medicines may be given for pain and cramping, and a catheter may be used to drain the bladder for a few days after surgery. Patients will need to limit their activities for several weeks to allow complete healing at the surgical site.
If a patient’s uterus is removed along with her cervix, they will no longer menstruate or become pregnant. However, there are many fertility-preserving surgeries that allow women to have children after treatment.
After surgery or radiotherapy, some women notice a change in their bowel habits. You may experience constipation or diarrhea, or feel abdominal pain. For this, you should follow the following tips:
1. Drink peppermint or chamomile tea to ease stomach pain.
2. If you are constipated, drink plenty of fluids (excluding alcohol and caffeinated drinks) to help soften stools.
3. Limit spicy and greasy foods, as they can make diarrhea and constipation worse.
4. Talk to your doctor or dietician about making changes to your diet, or ask if taking medication is a good option.
Fatigue is a major issue for many women who are treated for cervical cancer, especially those who have undergone radiotherapy and chemotherapy. Fatigue may persist for several months or as long as a year or two after treatment ends.
Feeling tired is not only a side effect of treatment. Traveling to hospitals and clinics for treatment also becomes a hassle for the patient. This may make you feel particularly anxious if you work during your treatment or if you have a family to care for.
Ways to deal with fatigue:
1. Do things during the day that make you less tired.
2. Sleep only for 30 minutes during the day, so that you can sleep comfortably at night.
3. Talk with your family and friends about how you are feeling and discuss the things they can do to help you. Like housework and shopping.
4. Do some light exercise, such as walking or stretching, to help increase your energy levels. Ask your doctor whether these things are right for you.
Bladder control can change after surgery or radiotherapy. Some women feel that they are passing urine frequently. When they cough, sneeze, laugh, stress or lift some objects then bathroom droplets start coming out. This is called urinary incontinence.
The blood vessels in the bowel and bladder may become more fragile after radiotherapy. This can cause blood to appear in the urine or stool, even months or years after treatment. Ask your doctor what could be the appropriate treatment for this.
If your ovaries have been damaged by radiotherapy or chemotherapy, or they have been surgically removed, your body will no longer produce the hormones estrogen and progesterone. When these hormones are not produced, women stop having periods. This is called menopause. For most women, menopause is a natural process that begins between the ages of 45 and 55.
Menopause symptoms may include irregular periods, hot flashes, mood swings, trouble sleeping (insomnia), fatigue, and vaginal dryness. Symptoms of sudden menopause are usually more severe than those of a natural menopause, because the body has not had time to get used to the gradual decrease in estrogen and progesterone levels. Talk with your health care team regularly about how you are feeling. It is important to tell them about any new side effects or changes in existing side effects.
Menopause can cause other changes in the body. For example, over time, your bones may become weak and brittle, and break more easily. This is called osteoporosis. Your cholesterol level may increase, which may increase your risk of heart disease.
Ways to deal with menopause:
1. Increase the amount of calcium in your food (like curd, milk, tofu, green vegetables).
2. Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium. Sun is a good source of Vitamin D.
3. Do light exercise, such as walking, dancing, or team sports.
1. Get your cholesterol levels checked. If cholesterol is high, ask your doctor about medication and dietary changes.
2. Eat lots of fruits, vegetables and fiber.
3. Decrease your intake of low-fat foods by limiting processed meats and takeaway foods.
4. Exercise regularly. Ask your doctor which are suitable for you.
5. If you smoke, talk to your doctor about quitting.
Problem of sexuality-
Having cervical cancer can affect your sexuality in physical and emotional ways. The effect of these changes depends on many factors, such as your treatment and its side effects, and your overall confidence.
How do I know that I have cervical cancer?
On getting the above-mentioned symptoms, you can estimate cervical cancer and can get a proper diagnosis by meeting the doctor.
Disclaimer- This article along with advice has been written for educational purpose only, it is not a substitute for treatment. Therefore, on getting the above-mentioned symptoms, take the advice of a qualified doctor.
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