What is Cervical cancer?
Cervical cancer is a kind of cancer that occurs in the cells of the cervix. Cervical cancer starts in the cells lining the cervix– the lower part of the uterus (womb). The cervix links the body of the uterus (the upper part where a fetus grows) to the vagina (birth canal). Cancer starts when cells in the body begin to grow out of control.
Various strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted infection, play a role in triggering most cervical cancer.
When exposed to HPV, the body’s immune system generally protects against the virus from doing harm. In a small percentage of people, nevertheless, the virus survives for a long times, contributing to the process that results in some cervical cells to transform into cancer cells.
Cervical cancer is the most common type of cancer occurring in women worldwide. In India, cases of cervical cancer are increasing at dangerous levels. This cancer is killing a woman in every eight minutes.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), if cervical cancer is detected in time, it can not only prevent but also cure it. Being aware of the disease, as well as understanding its symptoms and risk factors, and taking precautionary measures can not only prevent it but also reduce the chance of it occurring.
How does cervical cancer happen?
Almost all cases of cervical cancer are caused by human papillomavirus (HPV). This is a common virus that can pass from one person to another during sexual intercourse.
Human papillomavirus is so common that most people are infected with it in their lives, although HPV does not show any symptoms, so you will not know when you will be infected with it. Usually, this virus also goes away on its own in women, however, if not gone, it can become a form of cervical cancer over time. But apart from this, there are many factors which increase the chances of getting cervical cancer in women.
Signs or Symptoms of Cervical Cancer
- Blood spots or light bleeding between or following periods
- Menstrual bleeding that is longer and heavier than usual
- Bleeding after intercourse, douching, or a pelvic examination
- Increased vaginal discharge
- Pain during sexual intercourse
- Bleeding after menopause
- Unexplained, persistent pelvic and/or back pain
What are the risk factors for cervical cancer?
- HPV infection increases the risk of cervical cancer in women. There are over 100 different strains of HPV that induce this cancer. The most oncogenic strains are HPV-16 and HPV-18, which are found more in the central part of India.
- Multiple sexual partners: Women who are in contact with multiple sexual partners increase their chances of this cancer. Because it increases the risk of sexually transmitted disease, which takes many years to detect.
- Socio-economic factors: Women who come from lower socio-economic class are more likely to have cervical cancer because they do not have good access to health care services. There is also a lack of awareness about this cancer.
- Smoking: Women who smoke have twice the risk of getting cervical cancer than women who do not. Regular exposure to carcinogenic agents leads to changes in cells that can lead to cervical cancer or any other cancer.
- Weak immunity: A drug or condition that weakens the body’s immune system can cause cervical cancer. Women with low immunity cannot fight any type of infection, which spreads in the body causing many diseases.