Cancer is always a scary topic, but nonetheless one that has to be talked about. Did you know that cervical cancer is the second most common form of cancer for women worldwide? It can make a hysterectomy necessary, as well as spread to other organs if it isn’t discovered early enough. But fortunately, if you get a regular checkup, there’s a good chance that it will be found in time. It is also a form of cancer that usually takes years to develop, and the first stages are not too dangerous. This means that you have a good chance to detect it early, if you stay alert and pay attention to any changes in your body.
What is the cervix?
The cervix is the lower opening of the uterus, where it connects to the vagina. It is an important part of the female reproduction system, as it can adjust its size according to its need; whether that is menstrual flow or the birth of a baby. The outer tissue, which can be seen during a vaginal examination, is called the ectocervix, the internal canal is the endocervix, and the border between both is the transformation zone.
What is cervical cancer?
The beginning form precancerous cells in the lining of the uterus. Most of them disappear before they turn into actual cancer cells, and thus it usually takes years until cancer appears. But if they are not treated, they can spread throughout the whole reproductive system. An STI called human papillomavirus (HPV) promotes the formation of cervical cancer. Cervical Cancer is categorized depending on the types of cells that are affected, and also the location within the cervix.
What are the symptoms of cervical cancer?
#1 Abnormal vaginal bleeding
If you bleed after menopause, in between periods, after vaginal intercourse, or after a pelvic examination, it could be a sign that something is wrong.
#2 Unusual vaginal discharge
The cervix produces mucus depending on your hormones, and cancer cells can change that. This would lead to unusual discharge that can contain blood between periods or after menopause.
#3 Pelvic pain
This is a sign that can point to cervical cancer, but also to a large number of other internal problems in your body. Your healthcare provider can help you find the cause.
#4 Difficult urination
When you have difficulty urinating, the reason could be an infection, but cancer is also a possibility. As with pelvic pain, there are numerous things that could trigger this symptom.
#5 Swelling and pain in one or both legs
Pay attention to all other body parts, as cancerous cells can spread everywhere within your body. The legs are most often affected because a tumor presses against the pelvic wall, which can cause pain in the legs, back and abdomen.
#6 Weight loss
Losing weight without trying is always a sign that your body has a problem, and is using up more energy than normal to fight it. In this case, your body produces cytokines to fight the cancerous cells; these proteins also accelerate the breakdown of fat, which gives your body the energy it needs.
Am I at risk for cervical cancer?
In the US alone, 12,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year. As we said before, it is one of the most common forms of cancer, but also one of the most preventable. The highest risk occurs at an age between 35 and 55 years, and only very rarely affects women under 20 or over 65 years of age.
Can cervical cancer occur without symptoms?
Early forms usually come without symptoms. The symptoms mostly occur only when cancer actually begins to form in your body; this is why it is especially important to pay attention even to the smallest changes in your reproductive system. Even if the symptoms are not connected to cervical cancer, it is good to consult your health care provider, who can help you find the cause.
How often should I get checked?
You should get examined by your gynecologist every year. Pap smears are recommended every three years; they are the most helpful way to detect HPV or cervical cancer. Frequent tests allow the gynecologist to monitor your cervix and see if something has changed. Have you been to your gynecologist in the last 12 months? If not, make an appointment now. Share this post with your friends!