Experts tell us that every organ in the female reproductive system can become cancerous, with varying degrees of vulnerability. The cervix (a doughnut-shaped structure that serves as the entrance to the uterus), along with the ovaries and the uterine wall called endometrium, are the most frequently attacked. Age seems to be an important factor affecting a woman’s chances of developing disease. The age of greatest risk for cervical cancer is 40 to 49. And the odds increase after menopause – for cervical and all other types of gynecological cancer.
Symptoms | Cervical Cancer
- Cancer of the cervix is often without symptoms in early stages
- In its more advanced stages, cervical cancer causes abnormal vaginal bleeding. The bleeding may start and stop between regular menstrual periods or it may occur after sexual intercourse or a gynecological exam.
- Increased vaginal discharge may also mean that the cancer has progressed into an advanced stage.
Causes | Cervical Cancer
- Study reveal that cancer of the cervix occurs more often in women who become sexually active early in life, who have had many sexual partner have had many other sexual contacts. Infection caused by human papilloma virus (HPV) may cause cancer to develop.
- Hormones also seem to play a part. More cases of cervical cancer have been found among women who use oral contraceptives than among those who rely on a diaphragm.
- Diet and lifestyle are also believed to play key roles. But while links have been definitely established between certain diets, lifestyle and the risk of developing cancer, the dynamics behind their cause and effect relationship have yet to be understood fully.
- Faulty genes have been blamed for everything from criminal tendencies to cancer. One does not inherit the disease itself, but the physiological and psychological traits that make one predisposed to the illness. This, too, may apply to cervical cancer.
What you can do | Cervical Cancer
- If you are diagnosed with cervical cancer, take heart. In its early stage, it can usually be cured without much difficulty and untoward effects.
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- Be active in decision-making. Update yourself on the latest treatments available. Read, talk to other patients and doctors, look up cervical cancer on the internet. Weigh the pros and cons of treatment options with doctor.
- Remember, treatment may affect your ability to have sexual relations and bear children. For instance, early cancer of the cervix may be cured without any debilitating effect, but a more advance case might require hysterectomy – the surgical removal of the uterus and the cervix – that will make it impossible for you to have a children. If you desire a child, you might prefer a less extreme treatment followed by twice-yearly checkups. On the other hand, if you are older or choose not to get pregnant, a hysterectomy would be the best choice even if cancer is in its early stage. Weigh your options.
- Eat well, even when you don’t feel like it. Stick to a recommended diet. Your body needs food to maintain itself and rebuild tissues to regain strength.
- Keep a diary of any side effects experienced while on treatment.
- Limit your activities if you easily tire, avoid crowds and steer clear of situations that make it easy to pick up an infection. However, do not let the disease or the side effects of your treatment rob you of your social life. It is important to maintain an upbeat attitude as you battle the disease.
- Set aside time for relaxation daily. Meditation and prayer, in particular, have been proven to help.
What your doctor can do | Cervical Cancer
- Order further tests to be made (e.g. CT scan, ultrasound) to confirm initial finding and rule out other possibilities.
- Make the necessary referrals to a specialist or special clinic of necessary.
- Map out an individualized treatment program for you. Treatment involves either minor surgery, hysterectomy (partial or total), freezing part of the cervix-laser or radiotherapy, or a combination of any of these depending upon the findings. Your doctor should involve you in making the choice.
- Monitor your condition during treatment, making sure to inform you beforehand about side effects to expect and how to counteract them, as well as warning signs that tell you to seek help immediately.
- Guard against recurrence by scheduling check-ups even when you have been declared cured and cancer free.
Prevention tips | Cervical Cancer
- Cervical cancer is a highly curable type of cancer if caught in the early stage. It is therefore important for a woman who is 20 years old or older or sexually active to undergo a yearly Pap smear test and every three years if she is celibate or a visual inspection with acetic acid (VIA). This simple, painless, inexpensive text has a 95 percent chance of detecting the start of cancerous growth in the cervix.
- Avoid promiscuity.
- Have a vaccine against HPV.
- Eat abundance of fresh and vegetables. This should give you a rich supply of anti-oxidants (nutritional substances that have been found to protect against cancer). The best-known antioxidants for preventing cancer are vitamins A, C and E, as well as flavonoids and carotenoids. All are readily available from fresh fruits and vegetables, except vitamin E that comes largely from fat and oils. It is therefore recommended to take vitamin E in supplement form to get the recommended daily allowance (RDA) without increasing cholesterol levels.