Cervical cancer is one such type of cancer that develops in females. When the cells in the cervix of a woman change, this type of cancer may happen. As the cervix connects to the vagina and uterus, cancer in advanced forms may spread from the cervix to these and many other body parts. Even the lungs, liver, rectum and bladder may get serious problems. Based on my personal experience with an aunt having cervical cancer, presented below are some more details on it.
Some time back, my aunt consulted India’s top doctors at RGCIRC (Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Institute and Research Centre) when she needed a second opinion on her cervical cancer. As she trusted the institute’s best cancer patient caring facility, she was sure of receiving thorough information on her disease and the right diagnosis and treatment for cervical cancer.
On meeting the top oncologist in India, she came to understand that this type of cancer is caused by human papillomavirus or HPV infection. Generally, it affects middle-aged women and develops with symptoms like pelvic pain, bone pain, swollen legs, skin disorders, and genital warts. Higher risk can be due to early-age sexual contacts, multiple sexual partners, overdependence on birth control pills, STDs, abnormal immune system, and cigarette smoking.
Let us now understand how cervical cancer can be diagnosed. Doctors usually conduct tests to know about the stage at which cancer has reached. First, they will understand the family and the patient’s medical history and understand the symptoms. Afterwards, there can be diagnostic tests like a pelvic exam or Pap test. Following are the main tests that may take place later.
Colposcopy: This is usually conducted after the Pap test and HPV test are found to be positive. Colposcopy involves cervix examination with a colposcope that stays outside the patient’s body. This instrument gives a magnified view of the inside areas. Thus, it is safe and comfortable. If the doctor notices any abnormality, then they will take a tissue sample from that area for diagnosis.
Biopsy: To diagnose cervical cancer, several types of biopsies can be performed. These include colposcopic biopsy, cone biopsy, and endocervical curettage biopsy. If biopsy results are positive, then the doctor may get other tests conducted to check the actual spread of cancer. The tests that are now mentioned further are the same kinds of test.
Cystoscopy and Proctoscopy: Under the effect of a local anaesthetic, cystoscopy is done by passing a thin tube through the patient’s bladder and urethra to check the possible growth of cancer in those areas. On the other hand, proctoscopy involves the rectum’s visual inspection.
Imaging Studies: These include X-ray, CT scan, MRI, intravenous urography, and PET scan. Through such imaging studies conducted under varied conditions, the doctor will assess the spread of cancer in different body parts.
If the cancer is detected, the treatment approaches vary for each patient, as described below.
If you approach the top oncologist in India as I did, then they will give you a personalised treatment plan based on your age and health condition. The treatment is also based on the type of cervical cancer and its spread. Majorly, the below-mentioned approaches are adopted:
Surgery: A gynaecologic oncologist is qualified to perform the surgery to remove the cancer tissue. It is done via an operation.
Radiation: Under this treatment approach, a radiation oncologist will treat cancer using radiation therapy, which will involve the use of high-energy rays. These rays are powerful to kill cancer.
Chemotherapy: It is performed by a medical oncologist. The procedure involves the use of special medicines. Again, these medicines can shrink or kill cancer.
Apart from the above, there are alternative medicine and complementary practices to treat cervical cancer. However, complementary medicine is an addition to the standard treatment procedure being followed for a patient. On the other hand, alternative medicine is an alternate treatment to a standard treatment procedure. Still, it is advisable to consult your oncologist before agreeing to undergo any such treatment that is not tested scientifically. Health practices like meditation and advised nutritional supplements should be acceptable choices.