by Kimberly Allen R.N.
Cervical cancer is a malignant neoplasm that develops in the cells of the cervix. Cervical cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in women worldwide. However, in the US the incidence is much lower, coming in at only 8th. Cervical cancer usually develops between 45-50 years of age though it can develop earlier or later. Also, Hispanic women have a significantly higher incidence of cervical cancer than the rest of the population. The incidence of cervical cancer and the death rate from cervical cancer has significantly improved in the US over the last 50 years and is now about half that of the rest of the world. The main reason for this improvement is regular screening with the Pap smear.
Cervical cancer develops when the healthy cells in the cervix aquire a genetic mutation that turns the healthy cells into a mutated cells. all the different cells in our body grow and multiply and then die at a set rate, the mutated cells grow and multiply at a faster rate and then they don’t die, they keep growing out of control. Because of the out of control growth of these mutated cells they collect and form masses or tumors. There are 2 basic types of cervical cancer.
1. Squamous cell carcinomas, this is the most commonly diagnosed type of cervical cancer. These originate in the squamous cells, the very thin, flat cells that line the floor of the cervix.
2. Adenocarcinomas are less common and develop in the glandular cells of the cervical canal.
Though the exact cause of cervical cancer is unclear Drs have found that in over 90% of diagnosed cases of cervical cancer there is evidence of HPV (human papillomavirus). HPV is a virus that is transmitted through sexual contact. Drs do caution however, that HPV is a very common virus and frequently goes unnoticed as it remains dormant in the body. So just as there are many women diagnosed with cervical cancer that also have HPV there are many more women that have HPV but do not have cervical cancer. This has lead many researchers to believe there are other factors involved in the development of cervical cancer. Other factor that increases your chances for developing cervical cancer include smoking, women that smoke are twice as likely to develop cervical cancer as non smokers. Women that take or have taken birth control pills for mor than 5 years also have twice the chance of developing cerviclal cancer than those that have not used the ‘pill’. Women that have children have a greater risk for developing cervical cancer than women that do not have children, and the more children you have the higher the risk. Anything that weakens your immune system whether it’s medications or disease also increases your risk for developing cervical cancer.
Treatment for cervical cancer depends of what stage the cancer is in and how healthy you are in general and of course your personal preference. The different options include surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Your Dr and health care team will make recommendations, but you have the final decision.
In any disease prevention is always better than treatment. there are a variety of things you can do to lower your risk of developing cervical cancer. First, lower your risk of becoming infected with HPV. There are now vaccines that are available that offer protection against the most dangerous types of HPV. These vaccines are available for girls starting at age 9 through 26 years of age. To achieve maximum affect it’s best if the vaccine is given before a girl becomes sexually active. Even with the vaccine it’s important to get regular pap smear tests as these tests can detect precancerous conditions of the cervix which can be removed before it becomes cancerous. I know that no body likes going to the Dr for their pap smear but regular screening with the pap smear is the main reason the incidence and mortality rates associated with cervical cancer has significantly decreased over the past 50 years.
Kimberly Allen is a registered nurse with an AND in nursing. She has worked in ACF, LCF and psychiatric facilities, although she spent most of her career as a home health expert. She is now a regular contributor to HealthAndFitnessTalk.com, dispensing advice and knowledge about medical issues and questions. You can reach her with any comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org