One of the most common types of cancer among women worldwide, Cervical Cancer is found to occur when abnormal cells on cervix start growing out of control. Cervical cancer can be successfully treated in case it is found in early stages, which is usually through Pap smear tests. Screening for cervical cancer is routine in many countries including the United States. Most cervical cancer cases are caused by human papillomavirus which is commonly called HPV. This can be transmitted through sexual contact with another affected person. Moreover, there are many types of HPV but not all cause cervical cancer. While some can cause genital warts others may lead to cervical cancer. This is exactly why women are recommended to undergo regular Pap smear tests. Pap tests can effectively identify changes in cervical cells before they start turning into cancer.
Cervical cancer basically means that cells within cervix are growing abnormally & multiplying out of control. These cancerous cells may also spread to other parts of the body as well. Cervix is the lower part of uterus which opens into vagina.
Usually caused by severe abnormal changes in cells of cervix, most precancerous or cancerous cell changes in cervical cancer patients occur within the cervix at the transformation zone. This is generally because cells in this region normally undergo constant change. Some cervical cells can therefore become abnormal in women infected with high-risk type HPV during this natural process of change. Other factors like smoking cigarettes or having more than one sexual partner may also play an important role in causing cervical cancer.
Abnormal cell changes in cervix rarely cause any symptoms. Symptoms are visible only when changes in cervical cells progress to cancer. Cervical cancer symptoms generally include the following.
Pap smear test is the routine screening test which is used for early detection of abnormal cell changes occurring in cervix for cervical cancer. Regular routine screening is the most important tool for finding & treating abnormal cell changes before they can progress to cervical cancer. Recommended schedule for Pap tests is based on age & factors which increase risk. In case cervical cancer is suspected, doctors would ask patient’s medical history & conduct a physical examination including Pap test & pelvic exam.
Choice of treatment & prognosis or long-term outcome of cervical cancer usually depends upon the stage & type of cancer. Quality of life, overall health, age & desire to have children will also be considered while deciding on the kind of treatment.
Choices of treatment for cervical cancer may either be a single therapy or combination of therapies mentioned below.
Surgery to remove cancer invariably depends upon extent & location of cervical cancer & the patient’s desire to have babies in future. Single or combination of treatments may be given before or after surgery so as to destroy cancerous cells which remain or to control or shrink tumors in cervical cancer cases.
Surgery in very early stages of cervical cancer can help preserve patient’s ability to have children. Surgeries for most stages of cervical cancer are unable to preserve patient’s ability to have children in future. Some common types of cervical cancer surgeries include the following.
Following is a list of risk factors which increase chances of a woman developing cervical cancer. Having one or more of these will make them most likely candidates; however, it does not mean that they will definitely acquire cervical cancer. Moreover, many women who get cervical cancer do not have any of these following risk factors.
Side effects resulting from LEEP or conization procedure include mild cramping in the first few hours, soreness for many days & vaginal discharge for about 7 days following the procedure. Since hysterectomy is a major surgery performed under general anesthesia, patients undergoing traditional procedure will have to stay for a few days at the hospital unless they opt for laparoscopic hysterectomy procedure. Moreover, patients should also get up & move around as soon as possible following hysterectomy & which will help prevent problems like pneumonia, blood clots & gas pains after surgery.
Women generally feel scared or angry when they find out for the first time that they have cervical cancer. Some women may also feel calm but it is normal to have wide spectrum of feelings which may also often quickly change. Many cervical cancer patients find that talking about their feelings with family & friends immensely help. It would be sensible to talk to the doctor in case emotional reactions to cancer are coming in the way of making important decisions about health. Feelings regarding body image & sexual health may also change after treatment for cervical cancer. Managing such issues may often involve talking openly with partner about feelings & discussing concerns with doctors. Many doctors are also capable of referring patients to such organizations which can offer additional information & support.
It is very important that women receive follow-up care after cervical cancer treatment. Oncologists or gynecologic oncologists may schedule regular check-ups which can include the following.
Dysplasia or early cervical cell changes can be effectively treated so as to reduce risk of cervical cancer. Women can reduce risk of abnormal cell changes by undertaking the following measures.
Cervical cancer can often recur or return after treatment. Chances of returning will depend upon the initial cancer which was treated. Cancer which has been diagnosed early is less likely to come back than cancer which was diagnosed in later stages. Long-term prognosis for recurrent cervical cancer greatly depends upon the extent of spread when recurrence was diagnosed. Treatment options include chemotherapy, chemoradiation or surgery which can effectively relieve symptoms. Doctors may also talk to women about being clinical trials for cervical cancer which are being conducted for studying therapies targeting cancer cells.
This is a kind of care for people who are having serious illness. Palliative care is different from usual care given to cure illness. Goal of palliative care is to improve quality of life in the body & also in mind & spirit. Mostly given alongside treatment, palliative care providers will also work so as to help control pain & side effects as well. They can also help patients decide on the kind of treatment they would like to have & even help the loved ones understand how to support the cervical cancer patient. Time comes when treatment to cure cancer no longer seems to be a sensible choice, especially for women having advanced cervical cancer. This can be due to several reasons like time, side effects & cost of treatment which does not promise any relief or cure, although one can still get treatment for comfort during the rest of time. This is the time when patient & the doctor can together decide for end-of-life hospice care.
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