What is the cervix?
The cervix is the lower part of the womb or uterus and is usually referred to as the ‘cervix’. We can say that it is the mouth of entrance to the cavity of the uterus.
Your role is important in maintaining a normal pregnancy. In non-pregnant women, the cervix does not have a character- ized function, although it may also be important for sexual enjoyment in some women.
What is cervical cancer?
Cervical cancer is one of the most common female cancers. The World Health Organization recommends that all women of childbearing age undergo gynecological checks at least once every two years to prevent this and other gynecological diseases. For this reason, most Western women regularly undergo cervical specimen testing, more commonly known as cytology, or also called the Pap test, which is used to detect cell changes that precede cancer. It is important to know that this test can report injuries to the cervix, which can lead to cancer over time, which is why it is so valuable for the prevention and early diagnosis of this disease in still healthy women.
These cervical lesions are often early cell changes that take years to develop into cancer and, in some cases, may go away on their own. Most abnormal cervical test results do not correspond to an obvious diagnosis of cancer, but they do warn of the clear possibility that tissue may degenerate to that point in the years to come. One of these possible precancerous changes is what is called CIN (Intraepithelial Cervical Neoplasia). If the CIN is allowed to evolve without treatment, it almost always leads to cervical cancer.
The two most common types of cervical cancer are squamous cell cancer (also called epidermoid) and adenocarcinoma. The most frequent is the first, the epidermoid.
What Causes Cervical Cancer?
There is no single cause defined in most cases. In most cases, there is the previous history of viral infection of the cervix, which is usually caused by human papilloma viruses or genital herpes simplex, also called Herpes type II (not to be confused with cold sores, also called Herpes simplex type I) . In most cases, these infections are inadvertent by the woman and are acquired in young times, usually due to normal sexual activity. Therefore, it is clearly demonstrated that cervical cancer is more frequent in women with greater number of sexual relations, or with an onset of these relationships at earlier ages. Smoking also appears to increase the risk of developing cervical cancer.
Cervical cancer can affect all age groups, usually starting at age 30 in early stages.
One of the ways for women to reduce the risk of developing cervical cancer is to undergo cervical sampling on a regular basis. Generally, once the sexual activity has been initiated, it is very convenient for all women to undergo a proper gynecological examination every 1-3 years, varying the time interval depending on their age, risk factors, etc.
The HPV vaccine
In Spain, as it has been for some time throughout the EC, the new vaccine against human papilloma virus (HPV) has already been approved. Hopefully it will soon be included in the recommended vaccination schedule. Read about it here.
What are the symptoms of cervical cancer?
Precancerous changes of the cervix do not present symptoms, so it is important to perform periodic cytologies. When there is already a cancer of the cervix, in many cases still do not present symptoms, but the most frequent thing is that the woman experiences small bleeding between the menstruations, if it is not menopaúsica, or after having sexual relations. In menopausal women, an apparent menstruation may occur again. Other symptoms that may occur are: vaginal discharge with blood, and in advanced cases, pain, bleeding from the anus and urinary discomfort.
How is cervical cancer diagnosed?
The safety diagnosis is carried out through a biopsy of the cervix. It is usually done after an examination and internal examination of the vaginal fund called colposcopy. With the biopsy we try to take a sample with which to perform a study of the diseased tissue with the microscope.
How is cervical cancer treated?
When it comes to the diagnosis of cervical cancer, doctors should deliberate between different treatment options, as it will depend on whether the cancer has spread to affect other tissues of the pelvis, or whether it affects only the cervix. The cure rates for cervical cancer depend on whether it has spread beyond the cervix or not, basically. Therefore, as we have mentioned, early diagnosis is essential. If detected in the early stages, the cure rates of this disease reach up to 95% -100%. The most effective treatment is by surgery and / or radiotherapy.
Treatment may include a type of hysterectomy (removal of the uterus), called a radical hysterectomy or Wertheim-Meigs, in which the surgeon removes the entire uterus and also the ovaries.
Radiation therapy is also usually part of the treatment, and its goal is to destroy the few cancer cells that the gynecologist can not see, and that may have been left in the surgical area. Sometimes, it can also be applied as a single curative treatment, without having to resort to surgery.