Cervical cancer is caused by mutations in the cells of your cervix. Researchers can't yet pinpoint the precise cause of cervical cancer, but they believe certain strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV) contribute to the development of cancerous cells in the cervix. HPV infection is common in sexually active women, and most will never be aware that they have HPV and will not go on to develop cervical cancer. So, more research is being conducted to try and establish why some women with HPV develop this type of cancer and others don't. Cervical cancer can be fatal without prompt treatment, so it's important to be aware of the signs of this type of cancer and to understand what your treatment journey may look like if you are diagnosed with cervical cancer.
Common Signs Of Cervical Cancer
In the very early stages of cervical cancer, you may not have any noticeable symptoms, which is why it's important to stay up-to-date with your pap smear appointments. The purpose of having a pap smear is to identify early indicators of cervical cancer, such as cell mutations. Noticeable symptoms can appear between screening appointments and in those who are overdue a pap smear appointment. Common symptoms include bleeding between periods or after sexual intercourse and pelvic pain, which may be present sporadically or only present during intercourse. Unusual vaginal discharge with or without an odour can also be a sign of cervical cancer.
Treating Cervical Cancer
If you are diagnosed with cervical cancer, your doctor will recommend a treatment method based on how advanced your cancer is and whether it's spread to other parts of your body. Surgery to remove either the cervix or both the cervix and the uterus is often required. If you have your cervix and uterus removed, you will not be able to become pregnant. Surgery is very effective, but it won't be enough on its own if cancerous cells have spread into other parts of your body. Chemotherapy or radiation therapy may also be required to kill off all cancer cells. Chemotherapy can be delivered intravenously or orally, while radiation therapy can be delivered using an external beam or an intravaginal beam. Immunotherapy is also used to treat cervical cancer. This treatment works by interfering with the protein structure of the cancerous cells, which makes them more easily identifiable to your immune system and bolsters your immune response against the cancer.
If you're experiencing any of the signs of cervical cancer, make a screening appointment at your medical centre that offers women's health services as soon as possible.