Most often caused by the Human Papilloma Virus, cervical cancer kills millions every year, in spite of the fact that it is one of the most successfully treatable cancers of the body with a good survival rate even in the advanced stages. The cancer can be detected early with annual Pap smear tests.
Detection of cervical cancer without regular pelvic examination and tests could be difficult as most often, the symptoms are absent with increased vaginal bleeding, discharge or pain in the lower abdomen which crop up during the advanced stages when it could be too late.
Therapies For Cervical Cancer
Surgery can be invasive or non invasive depending on the stage. During stage 0 and 1, cryosurgery, laser surgery and conization are done through the vaginal canal which require only a local anaesthesia. These methods help in removing sterility in the patients. While cryosurgery uses freezing for destruction of cancer cells, laser therapy involves vaporisation and destruction of cancer cells. Conization is done by using a laser or surgical knife or sometimes a metal wire that is electrified for removing a cone shaped wedge from the cervix.
Later stages of cervical cancer will require simple or radical hysterectomy when the uterus is removed in simple hysterectomy, and uterus, inner vaginal canal, cervix, surrounding tissues and lymph nodes removed in the case of radical hysterectomy. Women who have to undergo hysterectomy will not be able to conceive again.
During chemotherapy, drugs are administered to the patient either, orally or through intravenous injections. The drugs that reach all parts of the body through the blood stream will help in destroying the cancer cells that could be present in any part of the body and have metastasized. Normally topotecan, cisplatin, ifosfamide, paclitaxel and fluorouracil are used. There are quite a few side effects for chemotherapy like low blood count, nausea diarrhoea, infections and premature menopause.
Normally chemotherapy and radiation therapy are done in combination to rule out any chances of cancer cells that could be present after surgery. Radiation therapy can be internal or external. External beam radiation therapy uses high energy X rays directed at the cancer cells for killing them.
Internal radiation therapy of brachytherapy is a targeted therapy where radioactive capsules are inserted inside the cervix for killing the cancer cells and saving the healthy cells and surrounding organs from radiation damage. Sometimes both the types of radiation are used for better results. External radiation treatment can go on till 6-7 weeks. Internal radiation requires a hospital stay and can have varied treatment periods depending on the stage of cancer.
Along with these treatment methods, there are several natural treatments that can be undertaken in order to relieve the pain and discomfort caused due to chemotherapy and radiation and also to prevent recurrence. Meditation can help in calming the mind and relieving stress and tension. For pain relief, acupuncture is a good treatment method that can be followed. For easing the nausea and pain, herbal remedies like peppermint tea, ginger etc. can be used. Burns and scar formation on the skin can be treated by applying aloe vera gel.