Cervical cancer is the cancer of the cervix. The cervix is the lowest part of the uterus in a woman and connects the uterus to the vagina. The progression of cervical cancer is slow compared to cancers affecting other parts of the body. This slow spread of cervical cancer gives medical practitioners the opportunity to prevent, detect and treat symptoms early and with suitable follow-up care prevent the recurrence of the cancer.
There is a long time frame for the initial symptoms of infection and the final manifestation of the disease. This is why treating cervical cancer is easy. The cancer begins as an epithelial lesion in the cervix and after a year or two becomes a tumor, if left untreated. There are cases where initial symptoms occur in women in their 20s and 30s but the cancer itself is detected normally when the woman is in her 50s because of the slow progression of the disease. Instant death or disability will not normally occur when a woman is diagnosed with cervical cancer in its early stages.
The pap smear is an essential process for the prevention of cervical cancer. A woman must have her first pap smear as soon as she becomes sexually active, regardless of her age. Even if the girl has become sexually active at 15, a pap smear will show any abnormalities in cervical cells. The pap smear should be done every year for three years after the woman becomes sexually active. The U.S. Guide to Chronic Preventive Services recommends that a pap smear should be done every three years till at least age 65. Sexual abstinence is recommended in some cases as a preventive measure. Barrier protection during sex, such as condom use, is a preventive method. Gardasil, a vaccine, prevents certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV), which causes 70% of all cervical cancer. The vaccine has not yet been approved by the FDA. This vaccine is useful to prevent cervical cancer but will not cure a patient already infected by the cancer.
Identifying factors or symptoms of cervical cancer are generally not easily noticeable until it reaches advanced stages. Preventive measures like pap smears are the only way by which the cancer is detected. There is no pain during the early stages of cancer. Vaginal abnormalities are the first signs of cancer. Vaginal bleeding after the menstrual period is a sign, vaginal bleeding after menopause is a symptom, abnormal vaginal discharge and weakness and discomfort during vaginal bleeding are also possible signs of cervical cancer. .
Insight from Experts
Medical experts believe that there can be many causes for the progression of cervical cancer. Genetics is one of the causes for the disease. Other causes are viruses, multiple sexual partners, smoking and using oral contraceptives.
Cervical cancer is a slow progression cancer that affects women in their 20s and 30s. Ninety percent of women survive for more than five years after diagnosis of cervical cancer at an early stage. If the cancer is detected at a late stage, the picture is bleak. Only 20% of women diagnosed at a late stage survive for more than five years. The average age to truly detect cervical cancer is in the mid-50s, and if adequate steps are taken, the cancer can be prevented from progressing.