If cancer starts in the cervix, it is known as cervical cancer. The cervix is connected to the upper part of the uterus by the vagina (birth canal).
When a woman is pregnant, the uterus (or womb) is where a baby grows. All women have the risk of developing cervical cancer. It most commonly occurs in women over 30.
The principal cause of cervical cancer is long-lasting infection with certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV).
HPV is a viral virus transmitted during sex from one person to another. At some point in their lives, at least half of sexually active people will have HPV, but few women will get cervical cancer.
In most Western countries, cervical cancer is highly preventable because there are screening tests and a vaccine available to prevent HPV infections.
It is highly treatable when cervical cancer is found early and is associated with long survival and good quality of life.
What are the causes of cervical cancer?
Cancer is the product of an uncontrolled division of abnormal cells and their development. Most cells in our body have a set lifespan, and when they die, new cells are generated to start replacing them.
Abnormal cells can have two problems: they don’t die, and they keep dividing. It results in an unnecessary accumulation of cells that eventually form a lump or lump.
However, scientists aren’t entirely sure why cells become cancerous. Some risk factors, however, can increase the risk of developing cervical cancer.
HPV: This is a virus that is transmitted by sex. There may be more than 100 different types of HPV, of which at least 13 may be causing cervical cancer.
Weakened immune system: in those with HIV or AIDS, the risk of cervical cancer is higher, and people who have undergone a transplant, leading to the use of immunosuppressive drugs.
Birth control pills: Long use of some popular contraceptive pills elevates a woman’s risk slightly.
Certain sexually transmitted diseases (STDs): chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis increase the risk of cervical cancer development.
Getting multiple sexual partners or becoming sexually active early: cancer-causing HPV forms are almost always transmitted as a result of sexual contact with an HPV-positive person.
Furthermore, those who have had multiple sexual partners are typically at increased risk for HPV infection. It makes them more likely to develop cervical cancer.
Smoking: It increases the risk of cervical and other types of cancer.
Cervical cancer symptoms
As with many cancers, you may not have signs or symptoms of cervical cancer until it has advanced to a severe level.
These may include:
- Bleeding during sex
- Discomfort during sex.
- Vaginal discharge with a strong smell
- Vaginal discharge tingled blood
- discomfort, if the cancer is advanced
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding (other than menstrual)
- Abnormal vaginal discharge
- Pelvic pain
- Kidney failure due to the urinary tract or intestinal obstruction, if the disease is advanced.
How to prevent cervical cancer
Several measures will help reduce the chances of cervical cancer development.
Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine: There is a clear link between developing cervical cancer and certain forms of HPV. If each female adheres to current HPV vaccination programs, the risk of cervical cancer could be reduced.
Cervical screening: Regular cervical screening could help someone identify cancer signs and deal with them before the condition can develop or spread too far.
Safe sex and cervical cancer: The HPV vaccine protects against just two strains of HPV. Other strains have the potential to cause cervical cancer. Using a condom during sex helps guard against HPV infection. The screening will not detect cancer but does show changes in the cervix cells.
Have limited sexual partners: The higher the risk of transmitting the HPV virus when you have more sexual partners has a woman. This may result in an increased risk of developing cervical cancer.
Waiting longer for your first sexual intercourse: The younger a female is when she first has sexual intercourse, the higher the risk of becoming infected with HPV. The longer it is delayed, the lower its risk.
Quit smoking: Women who smoke and have HPV have an increased risk of developing cervical cancer compared to those who do not.
The stages and their survival
The stage at which an individual is diagnosed with cervical cancer can help indicate their chances of survival for at least five or more years:
- Phase 1: early stage 1, the chance of survival for at least five years is 93%, and late-stage 1 is 80 percent.
- Phase 2: In early stage 2, the average is 63 percent, dropping to 58 percent by the end of stage 2.
- Phase 3: During this phase, the chances fall from 35 to 32 percent.
- Phase 4: Women with phase 4 cervical cancer have a 15 to 16 percent chance of another five years of survival.
These are average levels of survival and do not apply to all. Treatment is useful in some cases, up to stage 4.