The cervix is found at the lower part of the uterus, at the top of the vagina. Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer experienced by women around the world. Cancer of the cervix is very rare under the age of 25, mostly occurring in the 55-60 year age group. It can spread to other parts of the body so early detection and treatment are vital. Squamous cell carcinoma is the most common form of cervical cancer and can be prevented by regular Pap tests to detect early changes. The other form of cervical cancer is adenocarcinoma.
The risk factors for cervical cancer include:Human Papiloma Virus infection
While the majority of the nearly 200 known types of HPV cause no symptoms in most people, some types can cause warts, while others can – in a minority of cases – lead to cancers of the cervix, or vagina in women, or cancers of the anus and penis in men. It is typically passed on by sexual intercourse.Weakened immune system
Taking drugs that repress the immune system boosts the risk of cervical cancer.Using birth control pills for a long period of time
This may slightly increase the risk of getting this type of cancer.Sexual history
Women who have had many sexual partners have a elevated risk of developing cervical cancer. Also, a woman who has had sex with a man who has had many sexual partners may be at higher risk of developing cervical cancer.
During the early stages of cervical cancer one might not experience any symptoms at all. The most common symptoms in this phase are: vaginal bleeding, pain during sexual intercourse and a vaginal discharge. Symptoms of advanced cervical cancer include exhaustion, leg pain, heavy vaginal bleeding, weight loss, back pain, pelvic pain, etc.
Menopause and cervical cancer
During menopause, it is normal for the menstrual cycle to be irregular and vary in quantity of the blood lost, until the periods stop altogether. While it may be just a sign of menopause, it may also be a sign of cervical cancer, which makes it easy to confuse the symptoms. That is why, most women in menopause do not seek help. They assume that it is normal.
It is very important for a woman to have regular Pap smear tests, which can identify potentially precancerous changes. If one should experience any symptoms, one should consult a doctor, who will perform the tests necessary.