Cancer of the cervix (cervical cancer) begins in the lining of the cervix. Cervical cancers don’t form suddenly. Normal cervical cells gradually develop pre-cancerous changes that turn into cancer. Doctors use several terms to describe these pre-cancerous changes, including cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN), squamous intraepithelial lesion (SIL), and Dysplasia.
There are 2 main types of cervical cancers: squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma. Cervical cancers and cervical precancers are classified by how they look under a microscope. About 80% to 90% of cervical cancers are squamous cell carcinomas, which are composed of cells that resemble the flat, thin cells called squamous cells that cover the surface of the endocervix. Squamous cell carcinomas usually begin where the ectocervix joins the endocervix. The remaining 10% to 20% of cervical cancers are adenocarcinomas. Adenocarcinomas are becoming more common in women born in the last 20 to 30 years.
You can prevent most precancers of the cervix by avoiding exposure to HPV. HPV is a member of a family of viruses that can cause abnormal tissue growth (such as genital warts) and other changes to cells. Delaying having sexual intercourse if you are young can help you avoid HPV. Limiting your number of sexual partners and avoiding sex with people who have had many other sexual partners lower your risk of exposure to HPV. Remember that HPV does not always cause warts or other symptoms, so a person may have the virus and pass it on without knowing it. HPV can be present for years with no symptoms. It is spread through sex. HPV infection is common. About 20 million people in the U.S. are infected with HPV, and by age 50, at least 80% of women will have had an HPV infection, according to the CDC. Most women with HPV infection don’t develop cervical cancer.
According to the American Cancer Society, in the US in 2006 about 9,710 cases of invasive cervical cancer will be diagnosed and about 3,700 U.S. women will die of cervical cancer. Worldwide, cervical cancer is a leading cause of cancer deaths for women. According to the FDA there are 470,000 new cases and 233,000 deaths each year.
Here are some symptoms that may be caused by cervical cancer. Other conditions may cause these same symptoms. Be sure to consult your doctor if any of the following problems occur:
Unusual vaginal discharge.
Pain during sexual intercourse.Symptoms
of advanced cervical cancer may include:
Loss of appetite
Single swollen leg
Heavy vaginal bleeding
Leaking of urine or feces from the vagina
The following procedures may be used:
PAP SMEAR: A procedure to collect cells from the surface of the cervix and vagina. A piece of cotton, a brush, or a small wooden stick is used to gently scrape cells from the cervix and vagina. The cells are viewed under a microscope to find out if they are abnormal. This procedure is also called a Pap test.
COLPOSCOPY: A procedure to look inside the vagina and cervix for abnormal areas. A colposcope (a thin, lighted tube) is inserted through the vagina into the cervix. Tissue samples may be taken for biopsy.
BIOPSY: If abnormal cells are found in a Pap smear, your doctor may do a biopsy. A sample of tissue is cut from the cervix and viewed under a microscope by a pathologist to check for signs of cancer. A biopsy that removes only a small amount of tissue is usually done your the doctor’s office. It may be needed to go to a hospital for a cervical cone biopsy (removal of a larger, cone-shaped sample of cervical tissue).
PELVIC EXAM: An exam of the vagina, cervix, uterus,fallopian tubes, ovaries, and rectum. The doctor or nurse inserts one or two lubricated, gloved fingers of one hand into the vagina and the other hand is placed over the lower abdomen to feel the size, shape, and position of the uterus and ovaries. A speculum is also inserted into the vagina and the doctor or nurse looks at the vagina and cervix for signs of disease. A Pap test or Pap smear of the cervix is usually done. The doctor or nurse also inserts a lubricated, gloved finger into the rectum to feel for lumps or abnormal areas.
ENDOCERVICAL CURETTAGE: A procedure to collect cells or tissue from the cervical canal using a curette (spoon-shaped instrument). Tissue samples may be taken for biopsy. This procedure is sometimes done at the same time as a colposcopy.
Types of surgery for early cervical cancer include:
LEEP (Loop Electrosurgical Excision Procedure) – uses electricity to remove abnormal tissue
CRYOTHERAPY – freezes abnormal cells
LASER THERAPY- uses light to burn abnormal tissue
The prognosis (chance of recovery) depends on the following:
The stage of the cancer (whether it affects part of the cervix, involves the whole cervix, or has spread to the lymph nodes or other places in the body).
The type of cervical cancer.
The size of the tumor.
Treatment options depend on the following:
The stage of the cancer.
The size of the tumor.
The patients desire to have children.
The patients age.
Treatment during pregnancy depends on the stage of the cancer and the stage of the pregnancy. If found early or for cancer found during the last trimester of pregnancy, treatment may be delayed until after the baby is born.
Gardasil is a vaccine that targets four strains of human papillomavirus (HPV). Those strains are called HPV-6, HPV-11, HPV-16, and HPV-18.
HPV-16 and HPV-18 account for about 70% of all cervical cancers.
HPV-6 and HPV-11 account for about 90% of genital warts.
The vaccine is also approved to help prevent vaginal and vulvar cancers, which can also be caused by HPV.
Studies have shown 100% effectiveness in protecting against infection with HPV-16 and HPV-18 strains in people who had not been previously exposed to the virus.
Tests show that the vaccine lasts at least four years. Long-term results aren’t known yet
The FDA approved Gardasil for girls and women aged 9-26. The FDA’s decision doesn’t automatically make the vaccine part of the CDC’s recommended vaccine schedule.
The drug company Merck, which makes Gardasil, is studying the vaccine in women up to age 45 and may seek to broaden the approval group based on those results.
Merck is also continuing to research use of the vaccine in boys and men, as they can also become infected with HPV, which could lead to genital warts.
Reports from clinical trials, to date, show Gardasil to be safe.
Gardasil is the first cervical cancer vaccine to be approved. In fact, it’s the first vaccine to protect against a risk factor for a cancer. Another cervical cancer vaccine, called Cervarix, is also in the works. It’s expected to be submitted for approval by the end of 2006.
Please pass this information on to any females that you know. Cervical cancer is a very serious matter to all women and this subject has not had enough light shed on it. I have personally had two abnormal pap smears and had to have a colposcopy and LEEP procedure done. Afterwards, I met several females who have had abnormal pap smears as well. HPV is much more common than you may think so please, spread the word.