What is cervical cancer?
Cervical cancer is a cancer that develops in a woman’s cervix (the entrance to the womb from the vaginal). It occurs when the cells on the cervix begins to grow in a geometric progression and out of control. It could be malignant or in benign genital warts form.
Cervical cancer may be asymptomatic at earliest stages of development, but when it gets acute, one of the early signs of cervical cancer you notice is abnormal vaginal bleeding or bleeding after coitus.
Vaginal Bleeding after first sex may necessarily not be one of cervical cancer signs until proven otherwise, however other forms of vaginal bleeding usually are oftentimes one of the symptoms of cervical cancer.
Worldwide, cervical cancer is both the fourth-most common cause of cancer and the fourth-most common cause of death from cancer in women. In 2012, an estimated 528,000 cases of cervical cancer occurred, with 266,000 deaths. This is about 8% of the total cases and total deaths from cancer. (Wikipedia)
The majority of cervical cancer cases belong to the squamous cell carcinoma type while a minute fraction develops from adenocarcinoma.
From several studies, the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) has been indicated to be the primary cause in almost all the cases reported all around the world. According to Wikipedia: HPV is responsible for 75% of the cases of cervical cancer. HPV can be transmitted through sexual coitus.
Before cervical cancer develops, there is usually a precancerous stage, where the cells on the cervix had started changing, in morphology and structure. Several risk factors abound for cervical cancer such as the following:
- Starting sex too early and early puberty.
- Smoking, and drinking alcohol.
- Having multiple sex partners.
- Weak immune system and long term use of birth control pills.
All these factors needs to be checked for proper evaluation of cervical cases, changes in the cells and tissues that lines the cervix for proper diagnosis.
Signs and symptoms of cervical cancer
Here are other cervical cancer symptoms and signs that may be discovered during clinical investigations which will indicate the stage of development:
- Vaginal mass. This may be a sign of malignancy, though it happens rarely.
- Metastasis (spread of cancerous cells) to the surrounding tissues and organs- abdomen and the lungs.
- Contact bleeding and/or vaginal bleeding especially after sexual intercourse.
Other symptoms of cervical cancer
These symptoms of cervical cancer are most noticeable by women at both the first stage and advance stages of the cancer:
- Fatigue and loss of appetite.
- Pain- pelvic pain, lower back pain, swollen legs and heavy pain in advanced cases. Other conditions such as ovarian cyst, ovarian cancer, vaginitis, all may present this symptom.
- Vaginal/anal fistulas is also very common at advanced stages of cervical cancer.
- Bone fractures due to probable spread of the cancer to the bones.
- Urinary incontinence. This may be noticeable if the cancer has spread to the upper or lower urinary tract.
- Bleeding after douches or pelvic examinations is another example of cervical cancer symptoms at advanced stage.
- Leakage of feces from the vaginal in advanced cases.
- Abnormal vaginal discharges.
Cervix cancer may be evaluated through diagnostic means such as PAP test, Ultrasound CT scans, colposcopy, cervical biopsy to study the cells, forms and morphology. If treatment is started urgently, cervical cancer symptoms may be alleviated. It is good to undergo PAP smear test regularly in order to catch it very early before it develops into full blown cancer.