Abnormal growth and division of the cells in the cervix leads to cervical cancer. The cervix is the part of the female body that connects the uterus to the vagina. The abnormal cells become invasive and they may invade other organs, like lungs, liver, bladder, and even rectum. As the disease progresses slowly, early detection and treatment can help in eradication of the cancer. It is most often found in women in who are between 50-years-old and 60-years-old. Experts are of the opinion that changes that increases the risk of this disease starts as early as 30-years-old, and if appropriate preventive measures are taken at this stage it can help in controlling this disease.
Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection is one of the most common causes for the development of cervical cancer. HPV infection results in abnormal division and growth of the cells in the cervical tissue leading to cancer. Some of the factors that may increase the risk of this cancer include having multiple sexual partners, early sexual contact, and taking birth control pills. These factors increase the chances of getting exposed to HPV, which can lead to cervical cancer. HPV may remain in the body without causing any major changes. Cancer may develop after several years of infection with the virus.
Smoking also increases the risk of this cancer by two to five times, when compared to non-smokers. Studies show that smoking induces precancerous changes in the cells of the cervix, which after a period of time develop into cancer. Women who have been taking birth control pills for more than five years at a stretch also have enhanced risk of this cancer.
This cancer may remain asymptomatic for several years until it becomes serious, and will lead to:
- Foul-smelling and blood-stained discharge from vagina
- Pelvic discomfort or pain
- Kidney problems due to obstruction of bowel movements or urinary tract
- Abnormal bleeding from the vagina, like bleeding between periods or after menopause
It is better to discuss with a doctor if you have any of the above-mentioned symptoms, as they may also be seen during other disorders that are not related to cancer. If vaginal bleeding happens after menopause, it should immediately be brought to the attention of a physician. Meet your doctor if bleeding during menstruation increases and if bleeding occurs frequently between periods as well. One should immediately get medical attention if vaginal bleeding is followed by tiredness, fainting, or dizziness.
- Cervical cancer can sometimes be asymptomatic.