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The emergence of cervical cancer in the body, also called cervical cancer, gives evidence that the body is not well. Among them, abnormal vaginal bleeding, which usually occurs only in advanced stages.
Therefore, avoiding medical consultations to assess their health conditions makes it difficult to diagnose the disease early, which is essential for greater survival. It is important to think about this because cervical cancer is the third most common cancer among women in Latin America and the Caribbean. Data are from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).
Given the frequency with which this problem affects women and the subtle behavior in the early stages, it is essential to know more about cervical cancer. For that reason, we prepared this post to talk about what this disease is, its symptoms, risk factors, treatment and more. Check out!
What is Cervical Cancer?
Cervical cancer consists of the involvement of an abnormal amount of cells in the cervix, passage between the uterus and vagina. This region, which can be attacked by cancer cells, works as a buffer, which prevents the attack of infectious agents to the uterus.
It also releases and facilitates the passage of sperm — the male reproductive cell necessary for sexual reproduction — to the fallopian tubes. However, some women may have all these processes compromised by Human Papillomavirus (HPV) infection.
These diseased, easily multiplying cells—located in the cervix—over time can invade and affect other organs and tissues. If this occurs, as when the disease is not discovered and treated early, the cancer is considered to be in an advanced stage, more aggressive and difficult to contain.
As mentioned, HPV infection is the leading cause of cervical cancer. Transmission occurs through direct contact with the infected mucosa or the skin, such as during sexual intercourse. In a small number of cases, the infection is persistent and can progress to cancer.
In the initial phase, it is not common for women to have symptoms, as the multiplication of these cancer cells is slow. However, as the disease progresses, some common signs involve:
- pain and discomfort during sex;
- bleeding after entering menopause;
- unusual vaginal discharge;
- menstruation longer than normal;
- dor abdominal;
- blood in the urine;
- bladder control etc.
What are the risk factors for cervical cancer?
Being a sexually active person is one of the risk factors for the onset of this pathology. After all, the main form of transmission is through HPV infection, through sexual intercourse – mainly, unprotected, and when those involved have multiple partners.
This type of virus is very common, although most of its incidences do not result in cancer. Thus, if those infected with HPV have an inefficient immune system (such as those with vitamin D deficiency), the risks are greater. This is because the tendency is for the virus to become persistent.
Along with this, there are also risk factors for smoking, having a family history of cervical cancer, etc.
How does treatment for cervical cancer work?
Cervical cancer treatment works by removing the cancer cells by electrocoagulation excision surgery — also called LEEP — or by cauterizing the cervix. The application of this procedure varies according to the size and spread of the tumor.
For example, if it is still early and only in the cervix, the surgery may be minimal. However, if the cancer has spread to other organs and tissues and is in an advanced stage, the most common treatment is usually radiotherapy or chemotherapy.
What are the steps to get a diagnosis of cervical cancer?
Diagnosis of the disease occurs through screening tests to detect changes in cells, such as Papanicolaou. It is usually indicated when there are no symptoms, which should be done annually as a preventive measure.
Through the Papanicolaou, health professionals are able to microscopically analyze cells located in the cervix. If there are signs of cancerous cells, the patient is indicated for a biopsy, a surgical procedure that removes samples for detailed analysis in the laboratory.
Another option is a referral for a colposcopy test, where abnormal-looking areas on the cervix are studied in detail with a magnifying glass. If cervical cancer is confirmed, healthcare professionals may also order other tests to find out the type, stage, and grade of the disease.
What is the incidence of cervical cancer in the population?
Cervical cancer affects 56,000 women annually throughout Latin America, according to PAHO. If you include the United States and Canada, the numbers rise to 72,000 diagnoses. In 2023, it is estimated that 17,010 new cases will appear, according to data from INCA (National Cancer Institute).
Did you answer your main questions about cervical cancer? As seen, it is the third most common in women, although skin cancer and colorectal cancer are also very common. Thus, it is important to make regular appointments with the doctor for early diagnosis and proper treatment.
For this reason, share this content on your social networks and help other women to take proper care of their health!
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Technical review: Alexandre R. Marra, researcher at the Instituto Israelita de Ensino e Pesquisa Albert Einstein (IIEP) and permanent professor at the Graduate Program in Health Sciences at the Faculdade Israelita de Ciências da Saúde Albert Einstein (FICSAE).