Cervical Cancer: A Threat That Women Should Not Ignore
A precancerous cervix lesion usually exhibits neither signs nor symptoms of cervical cancer. Symptoms or warning signs accompany early-stage cervical cancer. When cervical cancer has spread to certain other parts of the body, as it has with advanced cervical cancer, the symptoms may be worse. It depends on which tissues and organs the cancer has spread to. Learn about cervical cancer’s warning signs and symptoms.
Cervical Cancer: What Is It?
Cervical cancer develops in the cells that line the cervix, the lower portion of the uterus (womb). The uterus’s body, which is where a fetus develops, is joined to the vagina (birth canal) by the cervix. Cancer develops when the body’s cells start to proliferate out of control. The cervix is divided into two sections and is lined with two distinct types of cells.
- The cervix’s entrance into the uterus is called the endocervix. There are epithelial cells all throughout it.
- During a speculum exam, the doctor can see the exocervix (also known as the ectocervix), which is the exterior portion of the cervix. It has squamous cells all over it.
The transformation zone is where these two cell types converge in the cervix. Depending on your age and whether you have children, the transition zone’s exact location can change. The transformation zone’s cells are where the majority of cervical cancers start.
Cervical Cancer Types
The appearance of cervical tumours and pre-cancers under a microscope in the lab is used to categorize them. Adenocarcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are the two main kinds of cervical cancer.
- The majority of cervical malignancies are squamous cell carcinomas (up to 9 out of 10). Exocervical cells give rise to these cancers. In the transformation zone, squamous cell carcinomas typically start (where the exocervix joins the endocervix).
- Adenocarcinomas comprise the majority of other cases of cervical cancer. The cancers known as adenocarcinomas originate from epithelial cells. Cervical cancer develops from the mucus-producing endocervical gland cells.
- Squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma characteristics are less frequently found in cervical cancers. Adenosquamous or mixed carcinomas are the terms used to describe them.
Other cancers can form in the cervix, while squamous cell carcinomas and adenocarcinomas account for most cervical cancers. These other forms, like lymphoma, sarcoma, and melanomas, are more frequent in various regions of the body.
Cervical cancer develops as a result of DNA alterations (mutations) that occur in healthy cervix-based cells. Healthy cells develop and increase at a specific rate before dying at a specific period.
The mutations instruct the cells to grow and increase irregularly while remaining alive. As they build up, an accumulation of abnormal cells forms (tumour). Cancer cells invade neighbouring tissues and can separate from a tumour and travel (metastasize) to other parts of the body.
HPV is recognised to have a factor in cervical cancer, even if its precise cause is uncertain. The majority of HPV-positive people do not go on to develop cancer. It indicates that in addition to genetics, your environment and lifestyle choices also have a role in determining whether you’ll get cervical cancer.
Early Cervical Cancer Warning Signs
Even though some people don’t show any symptoms until the disease has progressed, it could be feasible to spot warning indications at an earlier stage. These consist of the following:
Menstrual bleeding can occasionally mimic cervical cancer. Any vaginal bleeding that seems unusual in any way has to be reported to a physician.
- A menstrual period that is longer or heavier than usual.
- Bleeding or spotting in between periods.
- Bleeding after menopause, particularly if it has been months or years since the last time.
Women may endure pelvic pain, frequently with no apparent cause.
- Some people experience back pain, especially in the lower back.
- It may feel like severe pain or pressure anywhere in the lower abdomen beneath the belly button.
A clear, milky, or slightly yellowish discharge from the vagina is normal and healthy. However, any colour, consistency, or odour changes should be considered. These discharge variations in women should be on the lookout for as they could be indicative of cervical cancer:
- Discharge that appears to be stained with blood and has a reddish tint
- An increase in discharge volume.
Pain during sex
- Some people bleed after having sex or experience pain during it.
Symptoms of Advanced Cervical Cancer
Cervical cancer can spread (metastasize) to the lymph nodes, the pelvis, or other body parts by forming tumours. Advanced cervical cancer symptoms include:
- Leg pain that persists as a severe or dull aching
- Leg swelling
- Loss of weight
- Back pain
- Vaginal faeces or urine leakage
- Having difficulty urinating and bowel movements
- Blood in the urine
Other diseases and disorders besides cervical cancer might also cause these signs and symptoms. But if you experience any of these signs, you should seek immediate medical attention. Ignoring symptoms could cause cancer to progress and reduce your chances of receiving curative treatment.
Relieving symptoms is still crucial in cancer care and treatment if cervical cancer is found. Other terms for addressing symptoms include supportive care or palliative care. It typically starts the moment a diagnosis is given and lasts throughout treatment. Make sure to discuss all of your symptoms, especially any new ones or ones that have changed, with your medical team.