Understanding cervical carcinoma for early detection
What makes cervical carcinoma particularly intriguing is that it’s largely preventable, yet it still affects thousands of women each year. Cervical carcinoma is a type of cancer that forms in epithelial tissue. It develops in the cervix, which is the lower part of the uterus that connects to the vagina.
The most common cause of cervical cancer is infection with the human papillomavirus (HPV), which is a sexually transmitted infection. Other risk factors include smoking, a weakened immune system, and certain genetic factors.
At the early stage of the cancer, the disease generally shows no signs or symptoms. Signs and symptoms of advanced stage of cancer include:
-Bleeding from vagina after sexual intercourse
-Abnormal bleeding between regular periods
-Bloody vaginal discharge
-Lower abdominal pain or pain during sexual intercourse
If you’re tested positive, you’ll most likely be told that you require further testing to exclude or confirm the diagnosis of cervical cancer. The next step of bringing the potentially cancerous cervical cells to a closer look is to undergo a procedure known as colposcopy.
If the results of the colposcopy turn out to be worrisome, your doctor may offer you the following procedures:
1. Electrical wire loop excision
This procedure uses a thin, electrified wire to excise a tissue sample. It can be done in the doctor’s office.
2. Cone biopsy
This is the conventional way of obtaining a tissue sample which allows the doctor to acquire a bigger sample. This on the other hand, is commonly done under general anaesthesia in the operating theatre.
The abovementioned two minor surgical procedures can potentially be curative if the cancer is small and has not spread anywhere. This will be determined by the pathologists in which they’d interpret the sample tissue your doctor has sent to them.
Besides, your doctor will also have to perform some imaging tests (i.e. CT scans and ultrasonography) to exclude any spreading of the cancer (also known as metastasis), should the pathology report of the tissue sample come back abnormal.
However, it is always better to prevent than to cure. The risk factors of cervical cancer are generally similar to sexually transmitted HPV infections, including:
Multiple sexual partners
The higher the number of sexual partners you have, the more likely you are to contract the infection. Having sexual intercourse with a partner with multiple sexual partners increases your risk as well.
Early sexual encounters
It is proven that having sexual intercourse at a younger age increases the risk of cervical cancer.
People with weakened immune system tend to be more at risk compared to the general population. Thus, people infected with HIV or those who are taking immunosuppressants are at greater risk.
Smoking is known to be associated with development of a specific type of cervical cancer known as squamous cell cervical cancer.
Besides avoiding smoking and maintaining a healthy lifestyle to promote better immunity, it is absolutely important to regularly visit your gynecologist for screening tests such as pap smear to pick up any early disease to prevent its progression into cancer.
Precancerous diseases are curable and thus, reducing the risk of cervical cancer development. If you’ve never had sexual intercourse, do enquire and ask your doctor regarding HPV vaccine. And lastly, practice safe sex by using barrier protections such as condoms and limit the number of sexual partners you have.