Uterine and Cervical cancers are the most common forms of cancer that occur in women. Both forms of cancer tend to occur then the cells present in the uterus and the cervix start multiplying rapidly after undergoing abnormal changes. The multiplication of these cells without control leads to the formation of tumors that either stay inside the uterus or cervix, or spread rapidly to other parts of the body.
Both cervical and uterine cancers begin in the uterus which is also called a ‘womb’ which nourishes the unborn child. While uterine (or) endometrial cancer starts from the uterine lining (called the ‘endomtetrium’), cervical cancer develops on the lower part of the uterus which forms the cervical surface.
Risk Factors associated with Cervical and Uterine Cancers
Both cervical and uterine cancers are very common in women above 50 years of age. Both forms of cancers progress gradually over a period of time without giving off any warning signs (symptoms). And in most cases, the cells that multiply would be benign for a while before turning into cancerous ones.
Both uterine and cervical cancers pose serious health related threats if not diagnosed and treated early. In many cases, the malignant cells can spread from the uterus and cervix to the other parts of the body via the lymph nodes or bloodstream, causing the cancer to spread rapidly to areas like the vital organs.
Common Causes for Cervical Uterine Cancers
Although both uterine and cervical cancers originate in the uterus, uterine cancer is more common and affects nearly 30000 women every year. The main causes for uterine cancer in women still remain undecided even though factors like hormonal imbalances can increase a woman’s risk of getting uterine cancer.
Cervical cancer affects about 17000 women every year and is comparatively easy to diagnose than uterine cancer. The causes for cervical cancer are also clearer and distinct when compared to uterine cancer. Accordingly, some of the more common causes for cervical cancer in women include the presence of HPV (human papillomavirus) or HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) in the body in addition to other factors like smoking, alcohol consumption or poor nutrition etc.
HPV is usually transmitted via sex. Cases where the individual has sex with multiple partners, has sex without proper protection or started having sex at an early age can increase the chances of HPV infection which in turn can cause cervical cancer.
Diagnosing Cervical Uterine Cancer
Cervical cancer can be easily diagnosed with a Pap test (or Pap Smear test). In this case, a few cells lining the surface of the cervix are scraped and viewed under a microscope. The test would positively identify an existing cancerous condition in addition to pointing out abnormal growths that could potentially turn into cancer later on. This in turn would help to treat cervical cancer at its earliest stage (the symptoms of the condition do not start showing up until later).
Uterine cancers are comparatively harder to detect because they do not show clear results with a Pap smear test. In most cases, a woman may get diagnosed with uterine cancer only after she starts experiencing symptoms like vaginal discharge, frequent urination, abnormal weight loss, bloating, abdominal swelling, abdominal/vaginal pain or pressure, abdominal gas or abnormal vaginal bleeding etc. However, in certain special cases, a woman may undergo blood tests and sonograms to locate potential tumors inside the uterus.
Treatment of Cervical Uterine Cancers
If a Pap smear test reveals a cancerous growth in the cervix, the doctor would perform a colposcopy and a biopsy to confirm the growth. In the case of the former, a small amount of vinegar is applied over the surface of the cervix after which the area is examined using a reed thin lighted instrument. In the case of the latter, a small amount of tissue is removed from the cervix and studied under the microscope for details.
Potential tumors and cancerous growths in the cervix are usually removed by cryosurgery wherein the tumors are subjected to extremely cold temperatures until they freeze. In certain cases, a doctor may opt for a cauterization wherein the tumors are burnt off. And then there is the laser treatment wherein the tumors are hit with high energy laser beams until they disintegrate completely.
While these procedures would help remove tumors near the surface of the cervix without harming healthy tissues in the process, they cannot be used for tumors that are deep inside the cervix or have spread to other parts of the body. In this case, the doctor would need to surgically remove the tumor and a small portion of healthy tissue surrounding it. In severe cases, the doctor would need to remove the cervix completely via a surgical procedure called hysterectomy.
Other common ways to treat cervical cancer would include chemotherapy with anti cancer drugs and radiation therapy with high energy rays. In addition to getting rid of the cancerous cells, these procedures would cause damage to the healthy tissues as well.
As in the case of cervical cancer, uterine cancer can be diagnosed by a biopsy. If the doctor notices a suspicious growth in the uterus, he/she may opt for surgery, chemotherapy or radiation therapy to remove the cancerous cells.
In some cases, the doctor would perform a hysterectomy and remove the uterus completely to prevent the cancer from spreading to other parts of the body.
Prevention of Cervical Uterine Cancers
Uterine cancer is closely related to the hormonal imbalances in the body. Keeping the hormone levels in check can help prevent uterine cancer in women. This can be done by opting for healthy diets, lifestyle changes or hormone treatments. Certain birth control pills are also known to reduce the risks of uterine cancer in women.
Cervical cancer on the other hand can be prevented by keeping HPV and HIV at bay. Since HPV is usually transmitted via sex, it is considered wise to stop having sex or use some kind of protection during sex (a condom would help). Habits like smoking could also increase the risks of cervical cancer and so should be curbed if not stopped completely.
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