Cervical cancer is a form of cancer that affects the cells of the cervix, the lower part of the uterus that connects to the vagina. Cervical cancer is the second most common type of cancer amongst Indian women and makes up 16.5 per cent of the total cancer cases. It is caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), a virus that is generally transmitted through sexual contact. Immunization against HPV (vaccination) can prevent up to 70% of HPV-related cervical cancer cases. In girls of 9 to14 years age, a 2-dose schedule (at 0 and 6 months) of HPV vaccination is recommended; females ages 15 to 26 years require 3 doses (at 0, 1 and 6 months).
What are the symptoms of cervical cancer?
Cervical cancer can stay dormant for a long period of time. Most women don’t even realize they have cervical cancer until the late stages. When symptoms do show up, they can be easily mistaken for other conditions, such as menstrual periods and urinary tract infections (UTIs). Here are the symptoms of cervical cancer that you need to look out for:
- Vaginal discharge that can have an unusual odour
- Unusual vaginal bleeding in between periods or after intercourse and menopause
- Recurring pain in the pelvis
- Painful urination
Screening & diagnosis
Because almost all cervical cancer is preventable with proper screening, all women ages 21 to 65 should be screened regularly. Screening tests can detect the precancerous cells that may turn malignant in future. For an accurate diagnosis, our doctors will perform screening tests to examine the cervix and to take a tissue sample for the biopsy. These screening tests include:
- Visual examination: Our doctor may use special scopes to see inside your bladder and rectum to check for cancer or infection.
- Pap test: During the test, our doctor scrapes cells from the cervix wall to detect abnormal growths and cancer cells. Pap smear testing is repeated after every 3 years for screening.
- HPV DNA test: The cells collected from the cervix are also tested for infections, such as HPV that may cause cervical cancer.
- Biopsy: If the cancer is suspected, our doctor is likely to take a sample of cervical cells (biopsy) for laboratory testing.
Cervical cancer is treatable when detected early. If cervical cancer that’s caught in the early stages, the five-year survival rate goes up to 92 per cent. However, if cancer has spread within the pelvic area, it drops to 56 per cent. Based on cancer’s spread, possible complications and the patient’s preference, our doctors will recommend the most viable treatment option for cervical cancer.
In early-stage, surgery is the most-effective for cervical cancer. The purpose of surgery is to remove as much cancer as possible, which depends on its size and stage. Our doctors will surgically remove the cancer cells that may involve removing the cervix and other organs in the pelvis. The most common types of cervical cancer surgery are:
- Laser Surgery is performed for early stage cancer. Your doctor will use a laser beam to burn off the cancer cells on cervix. They may also cut a small piece of tissue for examination in a lab.
- Cone surgery is a minimally invasive surgery to remove cancer entirely with a cone biopsy. Our doctors will cut away a cone-shaped piece of cervical tissue, leaving the rest of the cervix intact.
- Trachelectomy is organ conserving surgery for saving the uterus for childbirth .If you still want to be able to have kids, your doctor may recommend a trachelectomy.
- Hysterectomy During this surgery, the surgeon removes the uterus and the adjoining lymph nodes. They’ll also remove about 1 inch of the vagina next to cervix.
Radiotherapy uses high energy x-rays to kill cervical cancer cells. The radiation is given from a machine (Linear Accelerator) outside your body in short bursts once a day, 5 days a week, for 5 to 6 weeks along with weekly intravenous chemotherapy (Concurrent Chemo-Radiotherapy). For early stage or locally advanced cervical cancer the main treatment is usually external radiotherapy along with chemotherapy followed by internal radiotherapy (Brachytherapy).
Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to destroy cancer cells. For carcinoma Cervix treatment these drugs can be delivered through a vein (intravenous).