Cervical cancer is highly curable if detected early. Cervical cancer develops when cells grow uncontrollably in the cervix, the entrance to the womb, and may spread to other parts of the body if left untreated. Most cervical cancers are caused by a genital infection with Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). HPV is a group of viruses, some of which will not cause noticeable symptoms or require treatment.
However, some types of HPV infections are considered high-risk and can lead to the growth of cancerous tumours if left untreated.
Symptoms of cervical cancer
In the early stages of cervical cancer, a women may not experience any symptoms. However in more advanced cases symptoms may include:
- Abnormal bleeding
- Spotting between menstruation
- Continuous discharge
- Pain in pelvis and lower back
- Bleeding during/ after intercourse
Cervical cancer is often curable if detected early. Women must undergo regular Pap-smear testing that helps detect any abnormal cells in the cervix. During the test, a sample is taken from the cervix to check for any abnormalities in the cells. In addition, HPV testing done at the same time as the Pap smear; this increases the sensitivity of the test.
Treatment of cervical cancer depends on various factors including the stage of the cancer, size, age and the overall health of the woman. In selected cases, very early stages of cervical cancer may be occasionally treated by removing the affected part of the cervix whilst preserving the uterus. More advanced stages may require surgical removal of the uterus, radiotherapy and chemotherapy.
A vaccination is available to protect women against most types of HPV infections.