Cervical Health Awareness Month is a great time to talk about issues that affect thousands of women all over the world. According to Healthywomen.org over 12,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer and one-third will die as a result of the cancer.
A preventable disease, cervical cancer is treatable with the correction screenings and vaccinations from your doctor. Cervical cancer symptoms may or may not be noticeable. Dr. Becky Gallapsy symptoms that can be present in the early and later stages of this disease. Cervical cancer can be described as a malignancy (cancer) that affects the lower part or neck of the female uterus called the cervix. This is a fairly common cancer of the female reproductive tract.
Cervical Cancer Symptoms And Causes
Symptoms are rarely present in the early stages of the disease, but could include:
- a continual vaginal discharge, which may be pale, watery, pink, brown, bloody, or foul-smelling
- abnormal bleeding between periods or after intercourse
- abnormal bleeding after menopause
- periods that become heavier and last longer than usual
If not detected and allowed to advance, the woman may experience additional symptoms such as:
- unexplained or heavy vaginal bleeding or discharge
- pain in the abdomen, pelvic region, back or legs
- loss of appetite
- unexplained weight loss
- leaking of urine or feces from the vagina
- bone fractures
The cause of this form of cancer is not well understood but it may be due to a virus (human papillomavirus) that is transmitted sexually. Risk factors include multiple sex partners, early age for first sexual intercourse, and multiple pregnancies. Women under the age of 55 are at higher risk for this form of cancer. Cervical cancer typically develops very slowly. It begins as a precancerous condition called dysplasia, which can be detected by a Pap smear and is highly treatable. If these precancerous changes are undetected, cervical cancer can develop and spread to other organs.
Cervical Cancer Diagnosis And Treatment
Cervical cancer symptoms are rarely present in the early stages of the disease so diagnosis is usually dependent on a routine annual Pap smear test (a scraping of cells from the cervix for microscopic examination)and pelvic examinations. If abnormal or precancerous cells are found on the cervix, a biopsy may be performed.
Treatment will vary depending on the stage of the cancer, and other factors such as a woman’s desire to bear children in the future.
If cervical cancer is detected early, a physician may recommend surgery to remove the cancerous tissue. Surgical procedures that can be done without a hysterectomy (removal of the uterus but not the ovaries) include:
LEEP (loop electrosurgical excision procedure), which uses electricity to remove abnormal tissue
Cryotherapy, which involves freezing the abnormal tissue
Laser therapy, which uses light to burn the abnormal tissue
Prognosis is good if the cancer is detected early.If the cancer is advanced treatments may include a hysterectomy or radiation and/or chemotherapy.
Take an active role in your health by learning all you can about Cervical Cancer
You can read more about this condition and use a free tool that walks you through your symptoms and leads you to an online diagnosis. Prepare yourself before your doctor’s visit and figure out what your symptoms mean using this Medical Symptom Diagnosis Tool.
About The Author
Dr. Becky Gillaspy is a college professor of the Science of Nutrition and other Health and Wellness courses for two prominent universities. She has been an expert guest numerous times on TV and radio and has been a contributing author for magazines focused on health, nutrition and women’s interests.
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