GUARDING THE GATE OF THE WOMB
One of the most common cancer that affects a women in her middle age is cervical cancer. It is the cancer of the cervix, the narrow opening that extends into the uterus through the vagina.
Cervical cancer accounts to 22.9% of all cancer in women and contributes to 20% deaths due to cancer. 20% of the women are diagnosed with cancer when they are older than 65 years. Thus, it is very important for every women to do the screening till the age of 70.
In India alone, every year, nearly 2000 women are diagnosed with last stage of cervical cancer and 1200 women are diagnosed with early stage of cancer.
CAUSES OF CERVICAL CANCER Cervical cancer is caused by Human Papillomavirus (HPV) in about 99% of the cases. HPV is the most common type of sexually transmitted infection. Other cause are multiple sexual partners, smoking, intake of birth control pills and early sexual contact.
SYMPTOMS OF CERVICAL CANCER Cervical cancer does not cause any symptom during its early phase. Only in its advanced stage it begins to show symptoms such as vaginal bleeding, abnormal vaginal discharge, pain during intercourse etc.
Abnormal bleeding can be seen:
- Between regular menstrual periods
- After sexual intercourse
- After a pelvic exam
- After menopause
Other common symptoms are:
- Pelvic pain unrelated to menstrual cycle
- Watery or thick foul odor discharge
- Increased urgency to urinate
- Pain during urination
EARLY DETECTION BY 1. PAP SMEAR TEST: The sample for this test is collected through a routine pelvic examination. A lighted microscope (colposcope) is used to examine the external surface of the cervix. Any abnormal area that is noted scraped and the sample is sent to the pathologist to look for precancerous or cancerous changes. We use Liquid Based Cytology method for collecting the cytology samples. The samples are then processed at the lab for precise results and reported within 24 hours.
2. PAP SMEAR + HPV TEST: This is the second level confirmatory test that is prescribed if any abnormality is found in the pap smear. The same sample is used to check for the presence of HP virus. Best done in the first sitting itself.
HOW OFTEN SHOULD YOU TAKE THIS TEST? Pap smear is recommended for women between 21-29 years once in every three years. In case the woman falls between the age group of 30-65, it is recommended to have a Pap Smear + HPV Test once, every five years.
WHAT TO DO IN CASE OF ABNORMALITY?
- If the cancer is detected early, removal of the tumor through surgery is done. In case of old women, hysterectomy is suggested.
- In a more advanced case, removal of the uterus along with lymph nodes, and parts surrounding the cancerous site is done.
- Along with surgical intervention the patients is also advised radiation, chemotherapy and targeted therapy to completely curtail the spread of cancer.