Cervical cancer occurs only in women, and occurs in the uterine cervix when cervix cells begin to display abnormal growth, invading surrounding tissues and organs. Cervical cancer tends to progress quite slowly, with the cells in the cervix developing very slowly from “normal” cells to “precancerous” cells all the way through to invasive cancer cells. Because of this slow development, however, abnormal cell changes can often be detected before they turn into cancerous cells.
The development of cervical cancer is associated several factors, including HPV infection that results in genital warts and skin disorders, high levels of sexual contact and high levels of sexual partners, smoking, and taking the birth control pill. However, many countries have screening processes in place to help guard against the development of cervical cancer. These include HPV injections, and regular pap smears.
Cervical abnormalities can be very difficult to detect as they don’t tend to result in symptoms until having reached the cancerous stage. However, when they do present, symptoms include vaginal bleeding, and vaginal discharge, and in advanced cases may include pain. Medical tests, however, such as pap smears are an excellent way to detect abnormalities early on, and should be taken advantage of.
While cervical cancers don’t typically spread given that they tend to be caught quite early on, when they do spread they tend to spread via metastasis to nearby areas such as the bladder, vagina, or rectum, as well as to areas such as the lungs or the liver. It is much harder to treat metastasised cervical cancer than cancer that is limited to the cervix, which highlights the need for women to ensure that they undergo a regular pap smear to ensure that their cervix does not show signs of abnormal, precancerous, or cancerous cells.
The treatment of cervical cancer often involves preventative efforts to remove pre-cancerous cells before they become cancerous. This typically involves biopsies, and sometime cryosurgery or laser surgery depending on the spread of the cancer. Radiation cancer may be used for cervical cancer that has spread, but chemotherapy and biological therapy tend to be fairly rarely used. Some patients have also turned to alternative therapies in order to help boost their immune system and fight the growth or recurrence of cervical cancer.
The survival rate for cervical cancer is very high, and if caught early on, is almost one hundred per cent. However, very late stage cervical cancer has a much higher mortality rate, with less then 20% of women with Stage 4 (metastasised) cervical cancer surviving five years after their treatment. These figures highlight the need to do everything possible to remain in good physical shape when undergoing treatment for cervical cancer, or when recovering from cervical cancer.