Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that develops in the cervix, which is the bottom region of the uterus that attaches to the vagina. Cervical cancer occurs when a cell in the cervix experiences a DNA mutation that interferes with its growth, division, and apoptosis. While it is not clear what causes mutations, it is known to be associated with the human papillomavirus (HPV). It is not uncommon for an individual to have HPV, and it does not usually cause problems. However, certain strains of the human papillomavirus combined with environmental factors can cause the development of cervical cancer. Adenocarcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are the two types of cervical cancer. Cervical cancer typically doesn't produce symptoms until it is advanced. Bleeding after intercourse, bleeding after menopause, or bleeding between periods can indicate cervical cancer. A punch biopsy or endocervical curettage are used to diagnose cervical cancer.
An individual affected by cervical cancer may require chemotherapy if their cancer has metastasized or other methods are unsuccessful at the elimination of cancerous cells. Chemotherapy uses certain kinds of potent medications to kill off cancerous cells in a patient's body. Chemotherapy works by killing off any cells in the cellular division process since malignant cells are almost always in some cellular division phase. Chemotherapy can be given orally, but it is more common or it to be administered intravenously in a medical facility. Chemotherapy is often used in cases of cervical cancer when the patient's malignancy has spread beyond the cervix and into the nearby tissues or lymph nodes. It is not uncommon for an affected individual to undergo surgery to remove cancer and then have chemotherapy afterward to ensure all cancerous cells were removed. Chemotherapy may not be used in cases where cervical cancer is in its very early stages because it is known to cause complicated and unpleasant side effects.
Radiation therapy may be needed to treat a cervical cancer patient to ensure all cancerous cells have been eradicated from the body. Radiation therapy is the utilization of high energy beams of particles or x-rays to damage or destroy cancerous cells. External beam radiation may be used to treat cervical cancer where a machine outside of the body focuses the x-rays or particle beams at the region where the patient's cancer is located. Radiation therapy is a common method used to treat even early stages of cervical cancer because it has fewer side effects than chemotherapy and can be used along with surgery. This combination ensures cancerous cells do not remain in the patient's body following their tumor excision surgery. Internal radiation treatment may be used, which is a method where a radioactive substance is placed in the body near the cancerous tissue to eliminate it. Sometimes internal radiation is combined in cycles with external beam radiation in the treatment of cervical cancer.
An individual who is suspected to have cervical cancer may need conization to aid in their diagnosis and treatment. Conization is a procedure used in cases of cervical cancer where the malignancy has not metastasized beyond the cervix. This procedure can also be used in the diagnosis of cervical cancer, as the specimen removed is examined under a microscope to identify the presence of malignancy and its extent. Cone-shaped sections of the patient's cervical tissue that contain cancerous cells are removed during this procedure. Unlike a method called loop electrosurgical excision, the surgeon uses a scalpel to remove the cancerous tissue rather than an electric loop tool. Because of the way conization is performed, the patient requires some kind of sedation or anesthesia. This method of surgery does not leave any burning behind in the tissues of the cervix, which allows for better precision when evaluating healthy tissue margins around the patient's excision for leftover malignant cells.
A hysterectomy may be needed to treat cervical cancer if it has spread into other tissues inside or on the uterus. A hysterectomy is a surgical procedure where the patient's cervix and uterus are completely removed. This is a measure taken in individuals who have cervical cancer that has spread beyond the cervix and into or on the outside of their uterus. Patients who have advanced cervical cancer that has spread into their uterus, lymph nodes, and or vaginal tissues may require a procedure referred to as a radical hysterectomy. A radical hysterectomy is a surgery where the patient's cervix, uterus, upper vagina, tissue around the cervix, and pelvic lymph nodes are removed. Some women may elect to have a simple hysterectomy if it increases their general prognosis, and they know they are finished bearing children. Outcomes in individuals who have a simple hysterectomy with cervical cancer are often better, and chances of recurrence are lower than those who undergo tumor excision surgery that may leave cancerous cells behind.
A cervical cancer patient may need to have a procedure referred to as a pelvic exenteration to treat their malignancy. Pelvic exenteration is a procedure only used in very advanced cases of cervical cancer that has spread well beyond the cervical tissues. This procedure may also be used in cases where the patient has had their cancer come back after previous treatments. During a pelvic exoneration, the patient's uterus, lower colon, bladder, vagina, rectum, and cervix are entirely removed. Individuals who have had cancer in their cervix or uterus that was treated with surgery or radiation may be able to cure their recurrent cancer with this procedure, as chemotherapy is not relatively effective for cancers of this origin. A pelvic exenteration involves the use of reconstruction surgery to provide alternate ways for wastes to leave the patient's body. End-sigmoid colostomy and low rectal anastomosis are the most common procedures used for digestive waste excretion, and urinary diversion is used for excretion of the urinary wastes.