January is #CervicalHealthMonth, and a vital part of that is #cervicalcancer awareness.
WHAT IS CERVICAL CANCER?
Cervical cancer is cancer of the cervix, a part of the female reproductive system. Also called the neck of the uterus, the cervix is the lower, cylinder-shaped part of the uterus that connects to the vagina. It has an outer surface that opens into the vagina and an inner surface that faces into the uterus, called the cervical canal.
Cervical cancer is a malignant tumour found in the tissues of the cervix. It occurs when abnormal cells in the cervix turn into cancer cells. The most common cervical cancer is squamous cell carcinoma, accounting for 80% of cases. Adenocarcinoma is less common and more difficult to diagnose because it starts higher in the cervix.
At diagnosis, cervical cancer is often just within the cervix, but it may spread to tissues around the cervix (e.g. the vagina) or to other parts of the body.
SYMPTOMS OF CERVICAL CANCER
The most common signs of cervical cancer include:
DETECTION OF CERVICAL CANCER
In 1928, Dr Papanicolaou discovered that cells in the cervix change in appearance before they become cancerous. The Pap smear is a test used to check for such changes in the cervix. It is a screening tool to find early warning signs that cancer might develop in the future. All women over 18 who have ever had sex are advised to have a Pap smear every two years, even if they no longer have sex.
If changes in cells are detected with a Pap smear or if a doctor remotely suspects a patient may have cervical cancer, people are encouraged to undergo further testing. These tests typically include:
TREATMENT OF CERVICAL CANCER