Cervical cancer: malignant cancer of the cervix uteri or cervical area. It may present with vaginal bleeding but symptoms may be absent until the cancer is in its advanced stages, which has made cervical cancer the focus of intense screening efforts using the Pap smear. In developed countries, the widespread use of cervical screening programs has reduced the incidence of invasive cervical cancer by 50% or more.
The cervix is the lower part of the uterus (womb). It is sometimes called the uterine cervix. The body (upper part) of the uterus, is where a fetus grows. The cervix connects the body of the uterus to the vagina (birth canal). The part of the cervix closest to the body of the uterus is called the endocervix. The part next to the vagina is the exocervix (or ectocervix). The place where these 2 parts meet is called the transformation zone. Most cervical cancers start in the transformation zone.
About 85% of cervical cancers are squamous cell carcinomas, which develop in the scaly, flat, skinlike cells covering the cervix. Most other cervical cancers are adenocarcinomas, which develop from gland cells, or adenosquamous carcinomas, which develop from a combination of cell types.
Symptoms of Cervical Cancer
Symptoms usually don’t appear until abnormal cervical cells become cancerous and invade nearby tissue. When this happens, the most common symptom is abnormal bleeding, which may start and stop between regular menstrual periods or may occur after sexual intercourse.
Bleeding from the vagina that is not normal,or a change in your menstrual cycle that you can’t explain.
Menstrual periods that last longer and are heavier than before. Bleeding after sexual intercourse, douching, or a pelvic exam.
Pain during urination: Bladder pain or pain during urination can be a symptom of advanced cervical cancer. This cervical cancer symptom usually occurs when cancer has spread to the bladder.
Causes of Cervical Cancer
Cervical cancer most commonly begins in the thin, flat cells that line the bottom of the cervix (squamous cells). Squamous cell carcinomas account for about 80 percent of cervical cancers. Cervical cancer can also occur in the glandular cells that line the upper portion of the cervix.
Genetic material that comes from certain forms of HPV has been found in cervical tissues that show cancerous or precancerous changes.
Most cervical cancer is caused by a virus called human papillomavirus, or HPV. You get HPV by having sex with someone who has it. There are many types of the HPV virus. Not all types of HPV cause cervical cancer. Some of them cause genital warts, but other types may not cause any symptoms.
The virus is a sexually transmitted disease. There are more than 50 types of human papilloma virus (HPV) that infect humans. Types 6 and 11 usually cause warts, while types 16, 18, 31 and 33 usually result in high-grade cervical dysplasia (CIN-2 and CIN-3) and carcinomas.
More than 90 percent of all cervical cancers are squamous cell carcinomas, and researchers believe that this cancer may be a sexually transmitted disease. There is much evidence that cervical carcinoma is related to sexually transmitted organisms.
Chemical exposure: Women who work on farms or in the manufacturing industry may be exposed to chemicals that can increase their risk of cervical cancer.
Women who have HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, often take drugs that weaken the body’s natural immunity or its ability to fight off disease. These women also have an increased risk for cervical cancer and should be closely monitored by their gynecologist for the development of precancerous changes to the cervix.