What is cervical cancer (cervical cancer)?
Cervical cancer is cancer that occurs when there are cells in the cervix aka the cervix that are not normal, and continue to grow uncontrollably.
Abnormal cells can develop quickly, resulting in tumors in the cervix. A malignant tumor will later develop into a cause of cervical cancer.
The cervix itself is an organ that is shaped like a cylindrical tube. Its function is to connect the vagina with the uterus.
This cancer is one of the most common cancers in women throughout the world. However, routine pap smear tests can help detect cervical cancer early.
Cervical cancer can often be cured if found early. In addition, there are several methods to control the risk of cervical cancer, which makes the number of cervical cancer cases decreased.
How common is cervical cancer (cervical cancer)?
Cervical cancer is very common throughout the world. According to records of the World Health Organization or WHO, cervical cancer is the fourth most common type of cancer in women. Furthermore, WHO also observed that the incidence of cervical cancer is greater in developing countries than in developed countries.
In Indonesia, the Ministry of Health even notes that cervical cancer is ranked second for the type of cancer most commonly found after breast cancer. Every year, there are around 40, 000 new cases of cervical cancer that are detected in Indonesian women.
This condition can occur in patients of any age. However, as we age, the risk of someone developing cervical cancer is greater.
Cervical cancer can be treated by reducing the risk factors. Discuss with your doctor for more information.
Signs & Symptoms
What are the characteristics and symptoms of cervical cancer (cervical cancer)?
In the initial stages, women with early and pre-cancerous cervical cancer will experience no symptoms. The reason is, cervical cancer does not show symptoms until the tumor is formed. The tumor can then push the surrounding organs and disrupt healthy cells. Symptoms of cervical cancer can be characterized by the following characteristics.
- Unusual bleeding from the vagina. For example bleeding when you are not menstruating, longer periods, bleeding after or during sex, after menopause, after bowel movements, or after pelvic examination.
- Menstrual cycles become irregular.
- Pain in the pelvis (in the lower abdomen).
- Pain during sex or sex.
- Pain in the waist (lower back) or legs.
- Limp body and easily tired.
- Decreased weight when not on a diet.
- Loss of appetite.
- Abnormal vaginal fluids, such as strong odor or with blood.
- One foot swelled up.
There are several other conditions, such as infection, which can cause various characteristics of cervical cancer. However, whatever the cause, you still have to visit a doctor to see it. Ignoring the possibility of cervical cancer symptoms will only make the condition worse and lose the opportunity for effective treatment.
Better yet, don't wait until cervical cancer symptoms appear. The best way to treat your genitals is to have a pap smear test and regular pelvic examination to the obstetrician.
There may be signs and symptoms of cervical cancer not mentioned above. If you have a concern about a specific symptom, consult your doctor.
When should I see a doctor?
If you show some of the signs or symptoms of cervical cancer above or other questions, consult your doctor. Each person's body is different. Always consult a doctor to deal with your health condition and check yourself for any signs of cervical cancer.
However, in fact all women (especially those who are married or sexually active) should see a doctor to get tested and get an HPV vaccine. There is no need to wait for new cervical cancer symptoms to seek medical help.
Women over the age of 40 are also advised to see a doctor and have regular pap smears. The reason is, the more you age the more vulnerable you are to this cancer. While you might not feel the various symptoms of cervical cancer that have begun to attack.
What causes cervical cancer (cervical cancer)?
Almost all cases of cervical cancer are caused by human papillomavirus or abbreviated as HPV. There are more than one hundred types of HPV, but so far there are only about 13 types of viruses that can cause cervical cancer. This virus is often transmitted through sexual contact.
In a woman's body, this virus produces two types of proteins, namely E6 and E7. Both of these proteins are dangerous because they can deactivate certain genes in a woman's body that play a role in stopping tumor development.
Both of these proteins also trigger aggressive growth of uterine wall cells. This unnatural cell growth eventually causes gene changes (also known as gene mutations). This gene mutation which then becomes the cause of cervical cancer develops in the body.
Some types of HPV do not cause symptoms at all. However, some types can cause genital warts, and some can cause cervical cancer. Only doctors can diagnose and determine how dangerous the type of HPV you are experiencing.
Two strains of the HPV virus (HPV 16 and HPV 18) are known to play a role in 70% of cervical cancer cases. This type of HPV infection does not cause any symptoms, so many women do not realize they have an infection. In fact, most adult women actually "host" HPV at some point in their lives.
HPV can be easily found through a pap smear test. This is why a pap smear test is very important to prevent cervical cancer. Pap smear tests are able to detect differences in cervical cells before they turn into cancer. If you handle these cell changes, you can protect yourself from cervical cancer.
Who is at risk of cervical cancer (cervical cancer)?
So far, HPV is known to be the main cause of cervical cancer. However, there are several risk factors that can increase your chances of getting this cancer, even if you don't have a history of HPV infection. Consider the following risk factors for cervical cancer.
- Human papilloma virus infection . Having sex with multiple partners can increase your risk of getting HPV 16 and 18. Likewise, risky sexual behavior such as unprotected sex or sharing the same sex toys . In addition, women who have never gotten a vaccine (immunization) of HPV are certainly more susceptible to being infected with HPV which could be the cause of cervical cancer.
- Smoking . Tobacco contains many chemicals that are not good for the body. Women who smoke have a risk of up to two times greater than non-smokers in women affected by cervical cancer.
- Immunosuppression . Medications or conditions that affect the immune system, such as the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the virus that causes AIDS, can increase the risk of HPV infection and cause cervical cancer.
- Chlamydia infection. Several studies have shown a higher risk of cervical cancer in women with blood test results that indicate ever or being infected with one of the sexually transmitted diseases, namely chlamydia.
- Lack of consumption of fruits and vegetables . Women who have unhealthy eating patterns, for example rarely eat fruits and vegetables, may have a higher risk of cervical cancer.
- Overweight (obesity) . Women who are overweight are more prone to have adenocarcinoma of the cervix.
- Long-term use of oral contraceptives (birth control pills) . A number of studies have shown that taking oral contraceptives (birth control pills) for a long time, which is more than about five years, can increase the risk of cervical cancer. If you have taken birth control pills for a long time to prevent pregnancy, immediately consider choosing another contraceptive and discuss with your obstetrician. Recent studies have found that women who use intrauterine devices (IUDs, devices inserted into the uterus to prevent pregnancy) have a lower risk of cancer. Therefore, an IUD type of contraception can be an alternative for those of you who don't want to get pregnant.
- Several times already pregnant and giving birth. Women who have been pregnant until giving birth (not miscarriage) 3 times or more have a higher risk of cervical cancer.
- Pregnant or give birth at a very young age. Very young means under 17 years of age from pregnancy to giving birth for the first time. Women who are younger than 17 years of age during first pregnancy (not miscarriage) are twice as susceptible to cervical cancer.
- Poverty Although a person's economic situation does not necessarily cause cervical cancer, poverty is very likely to hinder women's access to services and adequate health education, including pap smears.
- Diethylstilbestrol (DES) . DES is a hormonal drug given to women to prevent miscarriage. Mothers who use this drug during pregnancy have a greater risk of cervical cancer. Girls who are born also have a greater risk. This drug has not been prescribed for pregnant women since the 1980s. However, those of you who have been pregnant or were born before 1980 are still at risk of developing cancer.
- Heredity . If in your family, such as a grandmother, mother, or female cousin who has had cervical cancer, you are two to two times more susceptible to cervical cancer than people who have no inherited cancer. The problem is, gene mutations that cause cervical cancer can be passed down to the next generation.
- Age. Women under the age of fifteen have the lowest risk of this cancer. While the risk is increasing in women aged over 40 years.
Medication & diagnosis
How to diagnose cervical cancer (cervical cancer)?
Doctors usually use pap smear tests to diagnose cervical cancer. The doctor can do other tests to see cancer cells or pre-cancerous cervix if the pap smear test shows malfunctioning cell changes, such as biopsy.
Your doctor can refer you to a gynecologist (obstetrician, that is, a woman's reproductive health expert) if the test results indicate an abnormality, or if the doctor sees growth in the cervix or if you have abnormal bleeding.
It is important to know that bleeding from women does not always mean cervical cancer. Chlamydia is one of the reasons why women experience unusual vaginal bleeding. Your doctor may recommend that you do a test before being referred.
Some tests that may be needed to confirm if you have cervical cancer are as follows.
- Colposcopy . The procedure is carried out with a small microscope with a light source at the tip used to examine your cervix.
- Cone biopsy . This small procedure is carried out under anesthesia. A small cone-shaped portion of the cervix will be removed for examination. After that, you may experience vaginal bleeding for up to four weeks after the procedure. You can also experience pain such as menstruation.
If the doctor believes you have symptoms of cervical cancer, the doctor will then check the severity of the condition (stage) of the cancer. The test can include the following.
- Check the uterus, vagina, rectum, and urine if there is cancer. This procedure is done with anesthesia.
- Blood tests to check the conditions around organs, such as bones, blood and kidneys.
- Imaging tests (scanning), namely with the technology of Computerized tomography (CT) scan, Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan, X-ray, and Positive emission tomography (PET) scan. The purpose of this test is to identify cancerous tumors and when cancer cells have spread (metastasis).
What cervical cancer drug is often used?
The faster you detect cervical cancer symptoms and their ailments, the easier it is to treat cervical cancer.
Treatment for cervical cancer is quite complicated. The hospital will prepare a team of experts who are determined to overcome the initial and advanced stages of cervical cancer. Although ideally treating cervical cancer in the early stages, cervical cancer is usually not diagnosed early enough.
Usually, there are three main treatment options for cervical cancer, surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy.
This action will remove the infected part of the cancer. You and your medical team must work together for the best results:
- Radical trachelectomy - the cervix, the surrounding tissue and the upper part of the vagina are removed, but the uterus remains in place so you can still have children. That's why this surgery is usually a priority for women who have early stage cervical cancer and still want to have children.
- Hysterectomy - the cervix and uterus are removed, depending on the stage of the cancer, may be needed to remove the ovaries and fallopian tubes. You can no longer have children if you have a hysterectomy.
- Pelvic exenteration - a major operation in which the cervix, vagina, uterus, urine, ovaries, fallopian tubes and rectum are removed. Like hysterectomy, you can't have any more children after this surgery.
In the early stages of cervical cancer, you can be treated with radiotherapy or combined with surgery. Then, if the cancer is at an advanced stage, doctors can recommend radiotherapy with chemotherapy to reduce bleeding and pain in patients.
In this procedure, your body is exposed to radiation. The source of radiation can come from externally, with a machine that emits radiation to your body, or internally. With internal methods, an implant will be installed into your body to give radiation. There are several cases where these 2 methods are combined. This series of radiotherapy usually lasts for 5 to 8 weeks.
Chemotherapy can be used alone or in combination with radiotherapy to treat cervical cancer. In advanced cancer, this method is often used to prevent cancer growth. You will make an appointment to get a dose of chemotherapy through an IV.
All treatments for cervical cancer can have side effects. You should discuss it with your doctor first. You may experience early menopause, narrowing of the vagina, or lymphedema after undergoing cervical cancer treatment.
What can be done to prevent cervical cancer (cervical cancer)?
Here are lifestyle changes that can help you prevent cervical cancer from happening to you:
- Talking with family, friends or counselors can help. You can also ask your doctor about the survivor community and people with cervical cancer.
- A pap smear test is the best way to find changes in cervical cells or HPV in the cervix. It is important to follow up with your doctor after abnormal pap smear test results so you can get treatment on time.
- If you are under 26 years old, you can get an HPV vaccine that can protect against 2 types of HPV 16 and HPV 18, a type of HPV that can cause cervical cancer.
- Avoid getting infected with HPV by having safe sex, using condoms and not changing sexual partners.
- To prevent cancer from developing to more serious stages, you need to live a healthier lifestyle. For example, by maintaining a nutritionally balanced diet, exercising diligently according to the ability and advice of doctors, adequate rest, managing stress, stopping smoking and drinking alcohol, and reducing exposure to harmful substances such as from pollution, pesticides, and packaged foods.
If you have further questions, consult your doctor for the best solution for your problem.
Cervical cancer. http://www.cancer.org/cancer/cervicalcancer/. Accessed July 24, 2016.
Cervical cancer. http://www.webmd.com/cancer/cervical-cancer/cervical-cancer-topic-overview. Accessed July 24, 2016.
Cervical cancer. http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Cancer-of-the-cervix/Pages/Intro-duction.aspx. Accessed July 24, 2016.
Guidelines for Management of Cervical Cancer. http://kanker.kemkes.go.id/guidelines/PPKServiks.pdf. Accessed September 8, 2017.
Cervical Cancer. http://www.who.int/cancer/prevention/diagnosis-screening/cervical-cancer/en/. Accessed September 8, 2017.
Do We Know What Causes Cervical Cancer? https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cervical-cancer/causes-risks-prevention/what-causes.html. Accessed September 8, 2017.
Reviewed: July 31, 2019 | Last Edited: July 31, 2019