Cervical Cancer: Symptoms Diagnosis Treatment & Prevention

icon-blog By -Dr. Kanika Sharma
icon-blog By -February 5, 2024
  • Home
  • Blogs
  • Cervical Cancer: Symptoms Diagnosis Treatment & Prevention


Talk to a DoctorView Doctors Listingarrow-icon

Cervical Cancer: Symptoms Diagnosis Treatment & Prevention

Cervical cancer has drawn attention in the current scenario due to its silent killing behavior. Due to its alarming prevalence statistics and staggering mortality figures, it has become a major health threat to women globally. The fourth most common cancer among women worldwide, cervical cancer is the second leading cause of death for women in India. According to the latest global statistical data, cervical cancer is still one of the most prevalent types among gynecologic cancers and the 14th most common cancer worldwide. Over 500,000 new cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed each year. This cancer is responsible for around 250,000 annual deaths worldwide, with developing nations accounting for 80% of cases.

Women who have not been screened in the previous five years and those who have not consistently followed up for their precancerous cervical lesion have a greater risk of death. According to some pattern studies, women who haven't received timely HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccination are at higher risk of mortality due to this cancer. Complications of advanced forms of this disease and associated treatments are generally similar to other advanced-stage cancers. Renal failure, hydronephrosis (kidney swelling), pain, lymph node swelling, bleeding issues, and fistulas are some of its late complications. Early-stage cervical cancer patients typically have no symptoms. This usually becomes the major reason for its silent killing behavior as it results in delayed diagnosis as well as the commencement of the treatment, which ultimately decreases the chances of survival.

Vaccinating against HPV is the most effective preventive measure against cervical cancer. HPV vaccination is highly effective in around 90% of people. Some Indian women and parents of young daughters refuse to have their daughters vaccinated due to their orthodoxic reservations. Even though a patient might prefer receiving counseling straight from a medical expert in a clinical setting, more community outreach initiatives are being undertaken in India. However, screening outside the clinical setting is done while taking care of culturally sensitive information, language appropriateness for populations with lower health literacy, and focused efforts to reach women who are not yet sexually active. These actions are increasing patient awareness and understanding of cervical cancer. This article will shed  more light on cervical cancer and help you make informed decisions about your cervical health.

What is Cervical Cancer?

Cervical cancer is a type of gynecologic cancer that begins in the cervix which is the lower part of the uterus that connects to the vagina. Various strains of the human papillomavirus, also called HPV, play a role in causing most cervical cancers. HPV is a common infection that's passed through sexual contact. When exposed to HPV, the body's immune system typically prevents the virus from doing harm. However, in some people, this virus survives for years and causes some cervical cells to become cancerous.

Why is Cervical Cancer Dangerous?

Cervical cancer is a slowly progressing but potentially fatal illness. As it remains asymptomatic in most of the patients until reaching the advanced stage. Due to the delayed diagnosis and treatment initiation, this typically becomes the primary cause of its silent killing behavior thereby lowering the likelihood of survival or recovery.

The modern screening methods have paved paths for women to have a better chance of identifying precancerous cells that can be removed before they have a chance to develop into cancer. With prompt diagnosis and treatment, the prognosis of this cancer is great. It is possible for women to lower their chances of developing cervical cancer or to catch it early enough to treat it in a better way. Talk to your doctor about the recommended screening frequency and your risk factors for this disease.

Causes of Cervical Cancer

HPV (human papillomavirus) infection is the primary cause of most cervical cancers.  It is one of the common viruses that passes in the body through sexual contact.  In certain cases, the virus can alter DNA of cervical cells in a way that they develop into cancer.

The alterations instruct the cells to proliferate rapidly. When healthy cells naturally die as a part of their life cycle, these malicious cells survive. The cells aggregate into a mass known as a tumor. The cells have the potential to invade and destroy the surrounding healthy cells. The cancerous cells can break away from their site of origin and spread to various other parts of the body also.

Risk Factors for Cervical Cancer

  • Tobacco Use: Smoking cigarettes or taking tobacco in any other form increases the risk of cervical cancer. Smokers may suffer from HPV infection that tends to last longer and may lead to the development of cervical cancer. 
  • Multiple Sexual Partners: Your chance of contracting HPV infection increases if you have more sexual partners.
  • Commencement of Sexual Activity at an Early Age: Getting involved in sexual activities at an early age increases your risk of contracting HPV.
  • Previous Exposure to Sexually Transmitted Diseases: The risk of HPV, which can cause cervical cancer, is raised by the previous exposure to sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) or sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Herpes, chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, and HIV/AIDS are among the other STDs that raise the risk.
  • Compromised Immunity: If you have HPV and another medical condition that weakens your immune system, you may be at higher risk of developing cervical cancer.
  • History of Taking Miscarriage Prevention Medicine: The medication known as diethylstilbestrol, or DES, may have raised your risk of cervical cancer if your mother used it while she was carrying you in her womb. In earlier times, this medication was used to prevent miscarriages. It is associated with clear cell adenocarcinoma, a kind of cervical cancer.

What are the Early Warning Signs of Cervical Cancer?

Cervical cancer may not show any symptoms at first. It may exhibit the following symptoms as it progresses:

  • Bleeding from the vagina after having sex, in between periods, or following menopause
  • Heavier or prolonged menstrual bleeding 
  • Vaginal discharge that is bloody, watery, smells bad, and may be heavy.
  • Unusual pain in the pelvis 
  • Pain during sexual activity

Why Is Early Treatment Necessary for Cervical Cancer?

Fortunately, cervical cancer is curable if detected and treated in its early stages. The first important step is identifying symptoms and getting medical advice to address any associated concerns. If a woman notices unusual pelvic pain and bleeding during her menstrual cycle, after menopause, or after sexual activity, she should consult a gynecologist immediately.

Cervical cancer treatment’s objective aims at ceasing or minimizing the growth and multiplication of malicious cancerous cells in the cervix (the lower portion of the uterus connecting to the vagina). It also aims at easing associated symptoms, improving the patient's overall health, as well as prolonging their life. The treatment strategy selection depends on cancer's stage and type, the patient's overall health condition, and their personal choices.

What are the Treatment Options For Cervical Cancer?

  • Surgery: For early-stage cervical cancer, surgery is one of the primary treatments. Surgical alternatives include:
  • Conization:  A cone-shaped portion of aberrant tissue from the cervix is removed.
  • Hysterectomy: The uterus and perhaps surrounding tissues are removed during a hysterectomy. It can be a basic or radical hysterectomy, depending on the extent.
  • Radical Trachelectomy: In some circumstances, a radical trachelectomy is performed to remove the cervix while preserving fertility.
  • Radiation therapy: It employs high-energy rays to target and destroy cancer cells. It is administered either externally via external beam radiation or internally via brachytherapy.
  • Chemotherapy: It is the use of powerful medications to either kill or delay the growth of cancer cells. It can be used in conjunction with surgery (neoadjuvant), following surgery (adjuvant), or in conjunction with radiation therapy. Chemotherapy can also be used to treat cervical cancer in its later stages or when it has spread to other parts of the body.
  • Targeted Therapy: Some advanced cervical malignancies are treated with targeted treatments that target specific molecular targets associated with cancer growth. These medicines are frequently used in conjunction with chemotherapy and have been shown to improve treatment outcomes.
  • Immunotherapy: It stimulates the immune system to recognize and fight cancer cells.

How Can Cervical Cancer Be Prevented?

Following are the preventive measures for cervical cancer:

  • Vaccination: Nearly all types of cervical cancers are preventable by the administration of HPV vaccination, Gardasil 9 is the FDA-approved vaccine for cervical cancer. The HPV vaccine provides the best protection when administered before beginning sexual intimacies in your life. The vaccine may not have as much of an impact on those who are already sexually active. This is because some of the HPV types that the vaccine targets may have been exposed to sexually active individuals.
  • Getting regular screening: Getting screened for cervical cancer regularly can help in preventing HPV infection. Following up for the appropriate treatment immediately after the detection of HPV infection or cervical cancer can help in managing them properly. The tests that are done during screening for cervical cancer are pap smear test and the human papillomavirus (HPV) test.
  • Avoid smoking: Smoking enhance your risk of getting cervical cancer 
  • Do not make multiple sexual partners: This exposes you to the HPV infections and other sexually transmitted diseases enhancing your risk of getting cervical cancer
  • Avoid getting involved in sexual activities at an early age: This may also enhance your risk of contracting HPV.
  • Use condoms: Condoms, which prevent some sexually transmitted diseases, can decrease the risk of HPV transmission. However, they do not completely prevent it. Therefore, exposure to HPV is still possible in areas that are not covered by the condom.

Take Away

Most important tip to stay healthy is to stay informed and aware about your risk factors. If you are aware of how to prevent cervical cancer and when to get screened for the same is the key to stay away from this deadly cancer. Medflick, your partner in your healthcare journey, can help you avail the right and trusted medical advice on cervical cancer. 

Need Assistance?

Stay Informed, Stay Healthy

Subscribe to our Newsletter and make your informed health decisions. Get essential health insights and updates delivered straight to your inbox. Join now for a healthier you.