Cervical Cancer- Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, Side-Effects
A woman’s reproductive health is as important as her mental, physical and emotional well-being. It is important that all kinds of health issues concerning women are addressed. In this blog, I thought of dealing with cervical cancer, which is a lesser-known form of cancer found in Indian women.
Cervical cancer occurs in the cervix – which is a part of a woman’s reproductive system. It is the lower half of the uterus that connects to the vagina. This form of cancer accounts for 19% of all cancers in Indian women. As per National Cancer Institute of India, cervical cancer is the third most common cancer with approximately 1.04 lakh new cases during 2020.
Most women don’t even know that this kind of cancer exists as they neglect their reproductive health and go to a hospital facility only when they face dire symptoms. It is important for us to know what causes this cancer to be aware of it and prevent it.
What Causes Cervical Cancer?
Most cervical cancers are caused by Human Papillomaviruses (HPV), a virus transmitted through sexual contact. 99% of all cervical cancers are linked to chronic, persistent infection with this virus. Coupled with the infection of this virus, even lifestyle choices like poor hygiene can also lead to cervical cancer.
Factors That Increase Cervical Cancer Risk
There are a several factors that can escalate the risk of contracting this malady. Having many sexual partners and contracting STDs like chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis and HIV/AIDS can increase the chances of getting a HPV infection. Weak immune system, smoking and taking miscarriage prevention drug may also bring an increased risk of cervical cancer.
Symptoms To Look Out For
Like every other cancer, symptoms may not be found at early stages but develop during the advanced stages. Vaginal discharge, pain during sex, abnormal vaginal bleeding during sex, between periods or after menopause are the most common symptoms. Other than them, pain during urination, frequent urination and pain in the pelvic region can also be seen.
Diagnostic Test For Cervical Cancer
To detect cervical cancer, The Papanicolaou (PAP) test is done where a swab is used to collect a sample of cells from your cervix to test them for cancerous stages development. If something malignant is found, the doctor suggests a colposcopy for examining your cervix. During this examination, a biopsy may be collected for further diagnosis.
Most women in India fear the word ‘cancer’ and refuse to get these tests done. However, they can start taking the test from 21 years of age and take it every three years. Other than that, you can take HPV DNA testing for high-risk HPV types and Visual inspection with Acetic Acid (VIA) tests!
How Cervical Cancer Is Treated?
Cervical cancer is one of the most treatable forms of cancer. Swift primary prevention techniques like community education, social mobilization, HPV vaccination and secondary prevention techniques like screening and treating precancerous lesions with cryosurgery can help prevent most of the cases.
Routine PAP tests are mandatory and follow ups with the doctor on abnormal pap smears is advised. Chemotherapy, radiotherapy, immunotherapy and brachytherapy are widely used for treatment.
Cervical cancer is seen predominantly in rural women and they have no proper health facilities to help them. Setting up of detection and treatment camps reduces the fear and alleviates their anxiety. It proves to be one of the stepping stone towards cancer prevention!
Post-Treatment Side-Effects Of Cervical Cancer
Surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy and all other types of treatment have a number of side-effects that are long-term and need to be managed!
Physical changes include hair loss, nausea, appetite loss, bowel changes, fatigue, bladder problems, osteoporosis, and heart disease. Sexuality issues can also arise like low libido, vaginal changes and fertility issues. Although all of them are manageable, one must be careful to do what’s best while treating them.
Women’s issues are extremely important for me and that’s why I try to give the best advice to my patients. My mission is to give the fundamental right of healthcare to every individual in the most efficient and economical way with the best quality of care!