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Cervical Cancer

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by LaRusso L

(Cancer of the Cervix)

 

Causes

Research suggests that some sexually transmitted viruses like human papilloma virus (HPV) can cause cervical cells to begin the changes that can lead to cancer.
 

Risk Factors

Cervical cancer is more common in women over 25 years old. Factors that may increase your risk of cervical cancer include:
 

Diagnosis

Your doctor will need to examine your vagina and cervix. This can be done with:
After cervical cancer is found, more tests are done to find out if the cancer has spread beyond the cervix, and, if so, to what extent. This process is called staging, which may be done with:
 

Treatment

Treatment depends on the stage of the cancer and may include:

Radiation Therapy (Radiotherapy)

Radiation therapy is the use of radiation to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Radiation may be given in two ways:
  • External radiation therapy—radiation directed at the tumor from a source outside the body
  • Internal radiation therapy—radioactive materials placed in or near the cancer cells

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is the use of toxic drugs to kill cancer cells. It may be given in many forms, including: pill, injection, and by catheter. The drugs enter the bloodstream and travel through the body. It kills mostly cancer cells, but also some healthy cells. Chemotherapy alone rarely cures cervical cancer. It may be used with surgery and/or radiation.
This therapy may also be used to help control pain and bleeding when a cure is no longer possible.
If you are diagnosed with cervical cancer, follow your doctor's instructions.
If you are diagnosed with cervical cancer, follow your doctor's instructions.
 

Prevention

Finding and treating precancerous tissue in the cervix is the best way to prevent cervical cancer. Talk to your doctor about when you should have pelvic exams and Pap tests done. Another good approach is to reduce your risk of exposure to the HPV virus. There are currently two methods to do this:
  • Safe sexual practice—Limit the number of sexual partners and use latex condoms.
  • HPV vaccines—The vaccines protect you against some types of HPV. One vaccine, called Gardasil, is used to prevent cervical cancer by protecting against four types of HPV. Another vaccine, called Cervarix, is also approved for prevention by protecting against two HPV types. The vaccines are routinely given to girls aged 11-12 years old. A catch-up vaccine is given to young women who haven't been vaccinated.

Screening

The Pap test is used to screen for cervical cancer. It is also used to detect cervical dysplasia. A sample of cells is collected from the cervix to be tested. HPV can also be screened by testing the same sample of cells.
If you are a healthy woman, many professional health organizations offer these recommendations for screening:
  • If you are aged 21-29 years—It is recommended that you have the Pap test every three years.
  • If you are aged 30-65—It is recommended that you have the Pap test and the HPV test every five years. Or, you can continue to have just the Pap test every three years.
  • If you are aged 65 or older—You may be able to stop having Pap and HPV tests if you have had normal results, such as three normal results in a row and no abnormal results in the past 10 years.
Note: You will need to have Pap tests done more often if you have abnormal results or certain conditions, like a weak immune system or a history of cervical dysplasia or cervical cancer. Talk to your doctor about the right screening schedule for you.
 

RESOURCES

American Cancer Society
http://www.cancer.org

National Cancer Institute
http://www.cancer.gov

 

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Canadian Cancer Society
http://www.cancer.ca

Women's Health Matters
http://www.womenshealthmatters.ca

 

References


American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. ACOG Practice Bulletin 76: Postpartum hemorrhage. Obstet Gynecol. 2006;108(4):1039-47.


American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. ACOG Practice Bulletin 109: Cervical cytology screening. Obstet Gynecol. 2009;114(6):1409-20.


Cervical cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at: http://www.cancer.org/cancer/cervicalcancer/index. Accessed January 6, 2014.


Cervical cancer. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/cervical/. Updated September 5, 2013. Accessed January 6, 2014.


Cervical cancer. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated December 7, 2013. Accessed January 6, 2014.


Cervical cancer. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/types/cervical. Accessed January 6, 2014.


Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/prevention/HPV-vaccine/. Updated December 29, 2011. Accessed January 6, 2014.


Saslow D, Soloman D, Lawson H, et al. American Cancer Society, American Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology, and American Society for Clinical Pathology screening guidelines for the prevention and early detection of cervical cancer. CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians. 2012 Mar 14 early online.


Sawaya GF. Cervical-cancer screening: new guidelines and the balance between benefits and harms. N Engl J Med. 2009;361(26):2503-2505.


5/18/2007 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: The FUTURE II Study Group. Quadrivalent vaccine against human papillomavirus to prevent high-grade cervical lesions. N Engl J Med. 2007;356:1915-1927.


3/19/2012 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Screening for cervical cancer. US Preventive Services Task Force website. Available at: http://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/uspstf/uspscerv.htm. Published March 2012. Accessed January 6, 2014.

 

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