Philadelphia Treatment Guide
What It Is
Cervical cancer is the uncontrollable growth of abnormal cells within the cervix, the narrow part of the uterus that produces the mucus during sex that enables sperm to travel inside the uterus. It also tightly closes during pregnancy to keep the baby in place in the upper region of the uterus and opens during birth to allow the baby to pass through to the birth canal and vagina.
Human papillomavirus (HPV), the most common sexually transmitted infection in the U.S., is the cause of nearly all forms of cervical cancers. Having HPV greatly increases your risk of developing cervical cancer, as well as having AIDS or any other virus that harms the body’s immune system. Your sexual history may also be indicative of your risk level. Having multiple sexual partners, having a sexual partner who has had multiple sexual partners, and/or having sexual relations prior to age 18 increases your risk. In addition, long-term use of oral contraceptives, bearing many children, smoking, eating a diet low in fruits and vegetables, and being overweight raises your risk. If a close relative has been diagnosed with cervical cancer, your risk is two to three times greater.
Cervical cancer can be easily prevented with regular pap smears. Removing or killing abnormal cells detected by a pap smear early on can prevent cancer from ever developing. Moreover, Gardasil, a recently FDA-approved vaccine for females ages 9 to 26 that protects against two types of HPV that cause cervical cancer. Furthermore, practicing safe sex techniques, such as using condoms, can reduce your chances of acquiring HPV, and thus, reduce your chances of developing cervical cancer.
The death rate for cervical cancer declined 74 percent between 1955 and 1992 due to the increased usage of pap smears, and the death rate continues to decline by approximately 4 percent each year. Yet pap smear usage is still not universal. According to the CDC, six out of every 10 cervical cancers occur in women who have never received a pap smear or have not been tested in the past five years.
Abnormal vaginal bleeding (between menstrual periods, after intercourse, after a pelvic exam, after menopause, and/or longer, heavier periods), increased or abnormal vaginal discharge, pelvic pain, and pain during sex
The three primary treatment options are surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. There are several surgical options. The degree of invasiveness depends on whether the cancer has spread and whether the patient wishes to preserve her ability to conceive.
Used solely for pre-invasive surgery, a metal probe that’s been cooled with liquid nitrogen is inserted into the vagina and freezes off abnormal cells on the cervix.
For pre-invasive cancer, a focused laser beam is directed through the vagina to burn off abnormal cells or to remove a small piece of tissue for study.
A trachelectomy removes the cervix, a portion of the vagina, and lymph nodes within the pelvis. This procedure is for women with early stage cancer. After a trachelectomy, a woman can still become pregnant. A stitch is made at the bottom of the uterus to take the place of the cervix during pregnancy. There is a higher chance of miscarriage for women who have this procedure, and the baby must be delivered by caesarian section.
This is often done when cancer that has metastasized. Both the cervix and uterus are removed. A woman who undergoes a hysterectomy will no longer have a menstrual period and will no longer have the ability to become pregnant.
In a radical hysterectomy, the cervix, the tissue surrounding the cervix, the uterus, and a portion of the vagina are removed. The fallopian tubes, ovaries, and surrounding lymph nodes may also be removed. A woman who undergoes a radical hysterectomy will no longer have a menstrual period and she will no longer have the ability to become pregnant. Additionally, if the ovaries are removed, menopause commences immediately.
High-energy rays damage cancer cells’ DNA, which slows or stops cell division. The treatment also affects normal cells, but they are more capable of repairing themselves than cancer cells. Radiation is primarily used to reduce the risk of cancer recurrence after surgery.
For women whose cancer has metastasized, drugs are administered through the bloodstream to attack cancer cells that have spread beyond the initial diagnosed site. Chemotherapy is particularly effective at stemming rapid cell division, which therefore makes it efficient at stopping the uncontrollable growth of cancer cells.
Living With Cervical Cancer
Though a diagnosis can be terrifying for a woman and her family, Philadelphia Top Doctors and hospitals are here to help you win the battle. You’ll also find cancer support groups to help you cope with your prognosis and the Wellness Community Philadelphia, in an effort to provide comprehensive cancer support, offers exercise and stress management classes, support and networking groups, nutritional counseling, and educational workshops.