Cancer conjures up images of hopelessness in us and we all dread the word “cancer”. But unlike before, with advancements in medicine and surgery all is not lost. Some cancers can be cured, some can be arrested and in many cases the pain can at least be made bearable.
In India unlike other advanced countries cervical cancer tops the list. But considering the fact that Indian society is still very conservative, women often neglect the symptoms rather than going to a doctor and having themselves treated before it worsens. Cervix is the opening of the uterus into the vagina and is situated right in the middle of the pelvic cavity. When cancer affects the cervix it might affect a number of organs like the bladder, vagina, rectum etc. It may also spread to the lymphatic system and the bloodstream.
If You Are In The Age Group Of Twenty-Five To Forty-Five Don’t Ignore These Signs –
Symptoms Of Cervical Cancer
1. Chronic white discharge with or without smell
2. Chronic urinary tract infection
3. Fever that doesn’t go away
4. Bleeding on intercourse
5. Swelling in lower pelvic region with bloating
6. Loss of weight with occasional fever
7. Cancer of the cervix can spread to the rectum or bladder and give rise to blood in urine
8. If you are post-menopausal watch out for bleeding
9. Cancer can also eat into arteries and cause internal bleeding
It is difficult to separate the symptoms of the early stages from those of the late stage. Pain and bloating of the abdomen may start when the cancer is fairly advanced. The pain is due to the nerves and organs in the pelvic region and can be localized in the back, pelvis, knees etc. There could also be swelling of the knees. Cancer detected early on can be completely cured so go to a doctor at the first signs to get a thorough check up done.
Possible Causes Of Cervical Cancer
Chronic untreated vaginal infection can increase chances of cancer. Cancer develops when a chronic infection or irritation persists and alters normal cells so that they begin to develop abnormally.Smoking cigarettes is also a risk factor. The chemicals in the smoke can cause changes in cells which later lead to cancer.Women with history of prolonged usage of oral contraceptive pills are also at risk.
Diagnosis Cervical Cancer
The first stage in the investigation is a pap smear. If the doctor feels it necessary, a biopsy might be done as well. Routine blood tests may also be recommended. Other tests that might also be done include-
1. Blood sugar test
2. Blood urea test
3. Complete urine examination and culture
4. Complete blood picture
5. Ultrasound examination
The doctor will also be checking other signs in your body to rule out other causes of your symptoms such as fibroids, tuberculosis, cervical sores etc. If your doctor has diagnosed you as having cancer it is always a good idea to get a second opinion.
Treatment Of Cervical Cancer
When cancer has been detected early both surgery and radiation are equally effective options. Cancer that has reached a more advanced stage will need treatment based on its size and growth.
Surgery usually involves an extended hysterectomy. The reason for this is to eliminate all cells to which it might have spread no matter how small the cancer is. Post-operative recovery involves the same processes as after any hysterectomy but may be slightly slower than usual surgeries. The urinary system may take longer to get back to normal.
Radiation therapy involves the use of deep penetrating invisible rays from a radioactive substance to destroy cancerous cells. When radiation is planned after surgery, an important first step is checking whether you have anaemia. If so then this will need to be corrected first, as oxygen shortage in cells makes them immune to radiation and anaemia leads to cells getting less oxygen.
When cancer is advanced radiation may be the first option and surgery may not be done.
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This consists of chemicals taken by pills or injection and is supposed to kill cancer in places that surgery cannot reach.
Side Effects Of Treatments
Radiation treatment has a major disadvantage that it has no way of preventing damage to the good cells in the path of the rays. Hence it has some serious side effects. Radiation reactions may range from extreme fatigue, nausea and vomiting, a sensation of tenderness all over the body as well as irritation and pain in areas around the organ being exposed to radiation. Chemotherapy also has some side effects that include nausea, fatigue, diarrhea, temporary hair loss, and suppressed immune system.
How To Soothe Side-Effects
To soothe the side effects of radiation you can take warm baths without soap to soothe surface burns, dust talcum powder over the body to keep skin dry and eat soft food to ease pain while passing stool. Also try to take B-complex supplements or vitamin rich food as much as you can tolerate as this will guard against anemia.
Emotional Consequences Of Treatments
The fact that you may have cancer and will have to go through months of painful treatment will be depressing. Combined with the added pressure of caring for the household and handling work pressures will make things feel out of gear. Take time out to reschedule your life and arrange for a support structure from friends and family. Both emotional support as well as support in your day to day activities will be needed.
Don’t feel shy of approaching people for help and remember to go for the prescribed check-ups at intervals even after successful treatment. Discuss options with doctors at length and don’t feel pressured into taking any treatment. Sometimes sharing your thoughts with other cancer survivors helps a lot. Nowadays support groups are there to help you and with the advent of the net you can find them online as well. They can help answer your queries, share your fears and offer advice and support. Remember that cervical cancer if detected and treated early has an almost 100 % chance of being cured. So don’t neglect your health and especially after menopause take extra precautions.