Cervical cancer is an abnormal growth of cells that originates from the cervix. In more than 90 percent of cases, it is caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. However, it is important to also note that there are those who have acquired HPV infections without developing cervical cancer. Risk factors of cervical cancer include smoking, use of birth control pills, weak immune system, having many sexual partners, and starting sex at a young age. Cervical cancer usually occurs from precancerous changes. Approximately 90 percent of cervical cancer are squamous cell carcinomas with 10 percent of adenocarcinomas and a small percentage consists of rarer types. The diagnosis of cervical cancer can be achieved via a cervical screening and biopsy. Medical imaging is used to determine if the cancer has spread.
Prevention includes HPV vaccines that have been shown to protect individuals against two to seven strains of high-risk HPV that cause cervical cancers. Experts believe that these vaccines can help prevent up to 90 percent of cervical cancers. Since the risk of cancer still exists, women are recommended to go through a pap smear test which helps to detect precancerous changes, allowing patients to receive treatment at early stages of the disease. The treatment of cervical cancer includes chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery. In the United States, the five-year survival rate is at 68 percent. Globally, it is the fourth commonest cancer resulting in death among women. In 2012, it has been estimated that there are 528,000 cases that resulted in 266,000 deaths. Approximately 70 percent of cervical cancers are seen in developing countries. This may be due to the cervical screening programs that increases awareness among women in developed countries.
Symptom #1: Abnormal Vaginal Bleeding
Abnormal vaginal bleeding refers to bleeding between menstrual periods or after sex. It can present as blood streaked discharge which is often dismissed as spotting. Abnormal vaginal bleeding is the commonest symptom of cervical cancer.
It can also occur in postmenopausal women and should never be dismissed as normal as it could be a symptom of cervical cancer or other serious issues. Women with abnormal vaginal bleeding should seek medical attention to rule out serious conditions.