At one time, cervical cancer was one of the most common causes of cancer-related death for American women (American Cancer Society Statistics, 2020). Pap tests and HPV screenings have considerably reduced the rate of invasive cervical cancers. Even still, the American Cancer Society reports 13,800 women were diagnosed in 2020, with an estimated 4,290 patients dying from the disease (American Cancer Society Statistics, 2020).
While medical advancements are ongoing, the threat of cervical cancer and the importance of preventative screenings cannot be understated. Oohvie shares the need-to-knows about cervical cancer with info you can trust from HealthLynked. Create your HealthLynked Patient Profile today to make an appointment with a doctor.
What Is Cervical Cancer?
Your cervix is what connects your vagina (or birth canal) to your upper uterus (or womb), where a fetus grows (CDC, 2020). When cervical cancer begins, healthy cervix cells grow exponentially, causing tumors that are either cancerous or benign (CancerNet, 2019).
The two primary types of cervical cancer are squamous cell carcinoma and Adenocarcinoma. Squamous cell carcinoma accounts for roughly 80% to 90% of all cervical cancers. It starts in the cells that make up the outer surface of the cervix. The other 10% to 20% of cervical cancers are typically Adenocarcinoma, cancer beginning in the glandular cells that line the birth canal (CancerNet, 2019).
Who Is at Risk for Cervical Cancer?
While all women are at risk of cervical cancer, women between thirty-five and forty-four have the most frequent diagnosis rate. The national average age is fifty years of age. More than 20% of cervical cancer cases are found in women over the age of sixty-five. Cervical cancer rarely develops in women younger than twenty. Regardless of age in the U.S., Hispanic women, black women, and American Indian women are most at risk for cervical cancer (American Cancer Society Statistics, 2020).
Causes & Symptoms of Cervical Cancer
Prolonged exposure to HPV (Human Papillomavirus) is the chief cause of cervical cancer. HPV is a common sexually transmitted virus that at least half of all sexually active people will have at some stage in their lives (CDC, 2020). Learn more stats and facts on HPV from HealthLynked in Oohvie’s HPV blog.
Often times, cervical cancer has no early symptoms. Most patients report no abnormal activity until cancer spreads to other tissues (American Cancer Society, 2020). Once cancer grows, patients may report any combination of symptoms.
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding or irregular discharge.
- Pain during sex or general pain in the pelvic region.
- Leg swelling.
- Pain or difficulty urinating or producing bowel movements.
- Blood in the urine.
Preventative Measures for Cervical Cancer
Screenings that include pap tests and HPV tests should start at twenty-one. These screenings help to detect cancerous and precancerous cells while they are easier to treat. In a pap test, the doctor will collect cells from your cervix to be analyzed in a lab. Labs test for abnormal cells as well as cells that show changes suggesting a risk of cervical cancer. The HPV test identifies high-risk types of HPV that are more likely to cause cancer (Mayo Clinic).
Treatments for Cervical Cancer
Cervical cancer treatments depend on the cancer stage, health history of the patient, and whether the patient is considering pregnancy in the future. Most often, a combination of chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation therapy may be recommended.
In the case of surgical intervention, your doctor may recommend anything from targeting and removing the cancerous cells to total hysterectomy. Chemotherapy is a drug treatment used to kill cancer cells via injection or pill, often used in conjunction with radiation for localized treatment. Radiation uses high-powered x-rays or protons to kill cancer cells, performed internally, externally, or both, before or after surgery. Radiation has been known to trigger menopause and cause fertility issues. Keep your doctor up to date on your family planning goals and talk about ways to preserve your egg before you start treatment (Mayo Clinic). Be sure to keep your provider updated on any changes in status or symptoms with HealthLynked.
“Basic Information About Cervical Cancer.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 29 July 2020, www.cdc.gov/cancer/cervical/basic_info/index.htm.
“Cervical Cancer – Introduction.” Cancer.Net, 30 June 2020, www.cancer.net/cancer-types/cervical-cancer/introduction.
“Cervical Cancer Statistics: Key Facts About Cervical Cancer.” American Cancer Society, American Cancer Society, 30 July 2020, www.cancer.org/cancer/cervical-cancer/about/key-statistics.html.
“Cervical Cancer Symptoms: Signs of Cervical Cancer.” Signs and Symptoms of Cervical Cancer, American Cancer Society, 3 Jan. 2020, www.cancer.org/cancer/cervical-cancer/detection-diagnosis-staging/signs-symptoms.html.
“Cervical Cancer.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 31 July 2019, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/cervical-cancer/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20352506.