Cervical Cancer and Effective Treatments
The neck of the uterus, called the cervix, is lined with cells that, under
ordinary circumstances grow, divide and are replaced on an ongoing basis.
This process, called mitosis, occurs throughout the body to ensure that the
health and function of the cells, tissues and organ systems are maintained
at optimal levels.
Cervical cancer results from a mutation in the cellular lining of the cervix,
which spreads via mitosis to normal tissues and organs. Should this
abnormal cell division go undetected and/or untreated, tumors will form
and extensive spreading of the cancer (metastasis) will likely occur.
Causes of Cervical Cancer
Most illnesses, including cancer, originate as a result of multiple factors
working in concert. In the case of cervical cancer, there is no single cause.
Rather, the initial cellular mutation is most likely triggered by one or a
combination of conditions. Below are the primary causes of cervical cancer:
- Smoking—Women who smoke are twice as likely to get cervical cancer than those who don’t.1 Smoke from tobacco products is carcinogenic and is linked to cellular mutation in the cervical lining.2
- Age—Although cervical cancer can occur in women of any age, it occurs predominantly in women over age 40 and rarely in women under age 21.
- Human Papillomavirus (HPV)—A very common infection, the human papillomavirus (HPV), is a frequent precursor to abnormal cell growth (dysplasia). Many women experience at least one HPV infection in their lifetime. Of the 100+ HPV strains, many are non-cancerous (benign), but others are known to cause cervical cancer (malignancy).
- Compromised Immune System—This may compound the effects of the above and is considered to be a cause of cervical cancer, particularly in:3
- Patients who have undergone organ transplant surgery, immunosuppressive therapies are prescribed in order to stave off the body’s rejection of the implanted organ. Unfortunately the resultant suppression of the immune system also hampers the body’s ability to protect itself from disease.
- Patients with HIV/AIDS.
- Patients with rare congenital syndromes that adversely affect their immune systems.
- Birth control pills—Long-term use (5+ years) of birth control pills is a contributing cause of cervical cancer.4 You should talk to your doctor about the pros and cons of various types of birth control in your own case.
- Multiple pregnancies—Multiple full-term pregnancies are a contributing cause of cervical cancer. No one really knows why this is, but it has been proven beyond doubt by large studies.5
- Diet—Diets low in fruits and vegetables are linked to an increased risk of cervical and other cancers. Also, women who are overweight are at a higher risk.6
Signs and Symptoms of Cervical Cancer
Cancer of the cervix rarely exhibits early symptoms. By the time advanced cervical cancer symptoms are apparent, the cancer has likely metastasized—in other words, it has likely replicated and spread to other parts of the body.7 Advanced cervical cancer symptoms may include:
- Any unusual discharge from the vagina8
- Bleeding or spotting beyond your normal period9
- Pain after sex, douching or pelvic exam
However, these symptoms of cervical cancer can also be indicative of many other conditions, most of them benign. Always consult your gynecologist or OB/GYN for professional diagnosis of any medical condition.
Although most cervical cancer early symptoms are seemingly invisible, there may be signs at the cellular level. These early signs are detectable via Pap tests administered in standard pelvic exams. In fact, Pap tests can identify suspicious cellular activity long before it becomes a threat to a woman’s health.10
Cervical Cancer Treatment Options
You and your health care provider will discuss a treatment plan that’s best for your needs. These treatment plans might involve one of the following methods or procedures.
A new, minimally invasive approach involving robotic surgery is quickly becoming the treatment of choice at Gwinnett Medical Center and for surgeons worldwide. A robotic hysterectomy, combines the advantages of conventional open and minimally invasive hysterectomies—but with far fewer drawbacks.
It is performed using the da Vinci® robot, which enables surgeons to perform surgical procedures with unmatched precision, dexterity and control.
Learn more about the benefits of robotic hysterectomy versus the traditional open hysterectomy.
Download a FREE robotic surgery brochure from Gwinnett Medical Center here.
Radiation therapy is a cancer treatment that uses high-energy X-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells. There are two types of radiation therapy:
- External radiation therapy—Uses a machine outside the body to send radiation toward the cancer.
- Internal radiation therapy—Uses a radioactive substance sealed in needles, seeds, wires or catheters that are placed directly into or near the cancer. The way the radiation therapy is given depends on the type and stage of the cancer being treated.
Chemotherapy is a cancer treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping the cells from dividing. Chemotherapy can be either systemic, reaching cancer cells throughout the body via the bloodstream, or regional, targeting cancer cells in specific body parts or areas. The method chosen by your physician depends on the type and stage of the cancer being treated.11
For a physician referral, call 678-312-5000 or click here to find a doctor and search “robotic surgery.”
1American Cancer Society, Inc. www.cancer.org URL: http://www.cancer.org/cancer/cervicalcancer/overviewguide/cervical-cancer-overview-diagnosis
2"Cancer of the Cervix," American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, www.acog.org. URL: http://www.acog.org/Resources-And-Publications/Patient-Education-FAQs-List
3American Cancer Society, Inc. www.cancer.org URL: www.cancer.org/docroot/CRI/content/CRI_2_2_3X_How_is_cancer_of_the_cervix_found_8.asp?rnav=cri
7American Cancer Society, Inc. www.cancer.org URL: www.cancer.org/docroot/CRI/content/CRI_2_2_3X_How_is_cancer_of_the_cervix_found_8.asp?rnav=cri
11National Cancer Institute. www.cancer.gov URL: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/endometrial/Patient/page4