The cervix is a part of the woman’s reproductive system joining the uterus to its outer opening also called the vagina. It is the narrowest part of the uterus. The cervix plays a crucial part in the birth of a child.
It is the cervix that dilates and helps push the baby into the birth canal. During menstruation the blood from a woman’s uterus flows out through the cervix. It also makes mucous during sex and ovulation.
Cervical cancer or cancer of the cervix starts when new cells in the cervix continue to grow and multiply when the body does not need them and old cells do not die as they normally should. This unbalanced and unprecedented growth of tissue cells in the cervix leads to cervical cancer. The tissue cells become masses, tumors and lumps. All lumps formed in and around the reproductive organs are not malignant. Benign growths are polyps, cysts and warts and can be easily removed. Malignant tumours invade other organs and spread to other parts of the body.
Causes Of Cervical Cancer
One often wonders what causes the disease and hapless victims spend hours agonizing over what went wrong. There are some definite causes and risk factors associated with cervical cancer. One of the most important risk factors is the infection caused by the HPV or the Human Pappiloma Virus. It is sexually contracted. It can infect the cervix and is one of the leading causes of cervical cancer particularly in women who have had a resistant strain. The HPV causes the cervical skin cells to change and multiply. If these changes can be detected early, the cancer can be arrested in its early stages.
Lack of adequate screening is another cause. It is said that sexually active women must undergo a regular PAP smear test every year. The PAP smear screens the cervical cells for cancer. Smoking may be another risk factor in predisposing women to cervical cancer. Sexual Promiscuity also poses a risk as it increases the risk of contracting the HPV infection. Excessive use of birth control pills and having more than four children are some of the other factors causing cervical cancer.
Symptoms Of Cervical Cancer
Cervical cancer is indeed a silent killer. The initial stages of the cancer may simply go undetected as there are no outward symptoms. As the cancer progresses, women begin to experience abnormal vaginal bleeding. The bleeding may be profuse and may occur in between menstrual periods. There may also be bleeding after intercourse or douching. Post menopausal women too experience bleeding. The bleeding becomes heavier with clots.
There is increased pain with sex or an internal exam. Bleeding may accompany severe abdominal pain which may be debilitating. Women should remain attuned to their bodily symptoms and notify their doctor immediately on experiencing any of these symptoms.
Preventing Cervical Cancer
While cervical cancer is lethal, it can be prevented by getting regular pap smears done at the doctor’s office. The doctor scrapes a few cells from your cervix and sends them for a biopsy. If cancer is detected at an early stage, it can be treated with radiation and chemotherapy.