Cervical Cancer

15 November, 2022

Cervical cancer is a kind of cancer that affects the cells present in the cervix. The cervix is the lower area of the uterus that links to the vagina. In a majority of cervical cancer cases, the major cause is a strain of HPV (Human Papillomavirus), an infection that is sexually transmitted. When exposed to this virus, the immune system of the body usually stops the virus from causing harm. Early diagnosis can help in getting timely cervical cancer treatment. Get to know more about the symptoms, stages and treatment for cervical cancer. 

Cervical Cancer Symptoms

The symptoms of cervical cancer include the following:

  • Light bleeding or blood spotting between or after periods
  • Pain during intercourse
  • Bleeding even after menopause
  • Menstrual bleeding heavier or for longer than normal
  • Persistent back and/or pelvic pain for unexplained reasons
  • Heavy vaginal discharge 
  • Bleeding after a pelvic examination, douching, or intercourse

If you experience any of these symptoms, consult your doctor immediately and discuss. The earlier cervical cancer is diagnosed and treated, the higher are the chances of curing cancer. 

Cervical Cancer Stages

Cervical cancer is broadly classified into four stages (I, II, III and IV). The higher the stage, the greater the spread of the disease. Doctors generally use the words distant (cancer that has spread outside the pelvis and farther from the cervix), regional (cancer that has spread to parts close to the cervix, including the pelvis or the vagina) or local (cancer that affects only the cervix) to describe the stage. 

When discussing cancer of the cervix, a few doctors may use the below terms:

  • Early stage cervical cancer (Stages 1A, 1B and 2A)
  • Locally advanced cervical cancer (Stages 2B, 3 and 4A)
  • Advanced stage cervical cancer (Stage 4B)

Stage 1A

The cancer is present only in the cervix and is not over 7mm wide and 5mm deep. It can only be seen using a microscope. 

  • Stage 1A1: The cancer is not over 7mm wide and 3mm deep.
  • Stage 1A2: The cancer is over 3mm, but not over 7mm wide and 5mm deep.

Stage 1B

The cancer present in the cervix can be seen without the help of a microscope. The tumour is significantly bigger than that of stage 1A. 

  • Stage 1B1: At the widest part, the tumour is not more than 4cm
  • Stage 1B2: At the widest part, the tumour is more than 4 cm. 

Stage 2A

The cancer would have spread even outside the uterus and the cervix but would not have developed in the lower vaginal part, parametria or the pelvis walls. 

  • Stage 2A1: At the widest part, the tumour is not more than 4 cm.
  • Stage 2A2: At the widest part, the tumour is more than 4 cm. 

Stage 2B

The cancer would have grown outside the uterus and the cervix into tissues near the uterus and the cervix. However, it wouldn’t have grown into the lower vaginal part or the pelvis walls. 

Stage 3A

The cancer would have spread to the lower vaginal part but not in the pelvis walls. 

Stage 3B

The cancer would have spread to the pelvis walls, blocking the ureter and thus resulting in an enlarged kidney. In this stage, the disease is more likely to stop kidney functioning. The tumour could have also developed in the pelvis’ lymph nodes. 

Stage 4A

The cancer would have developed in the rectum, bladder and even out of the pelvis. 

Stage 4B

The tumour would have spread to many other body parts and this stage is referred to as distant metastasis or metastatic cervical cancer. For example, it could have spread to lymph nodes outside the pelvis, liver, bone or even lungs. 

Cervical Cancer Treatment

Cervical cancer is often treatable if diagnosed at an early stage. The treatment depends on where the cancer is, the type of size of the tumour, whether it has spread or not, and the overall health condition of the patient. 

The generally recommended treatment options include: 

  • Surgery (to cut away the tumour or to remove the cervix or the uterus)
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiotherapy
  • Targeted therapy

Even after cancer surgery and a combination of other treatments, you may have to undergo regular tests to check whether the tumour has grown back. So, don’t miss out on follow-up appointments with your doctor.

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