Cancer of the cervix. The cervix is the long neck at the end of the uterus where it meets the vagina. While the average age of women at diagnosis is about 45, this cancer can affect women of all ages.
FREQUENT SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
In the early stages, there are usually no symptoms.
Pelvic pain. Pain may occur in the hip and thigh.
Heavy menstrual periods.
Spotting or bleeding between menstrual periods.
Pain and bleeding after intercourse.
Leaking of feces and urine through the vagina.
Appetite and weight loss.
Unknown. It is probably related to viral infections, specifically human papillomavirus (genital warts).
RISK INCREASES WITH
Early age of first intercourse (before age 18).
Multiple sex partners.
Human papillomavirus infection (genital warts).
History of abnormal Pap smears.
Recurrent vaginal infections.
Weak immune system due to illness or drugs.
Sexually transmitted diseases.
Daughters of mothers who took DES (diethylstilbestrol) to prevent miscarriage between 1938 and 1971.
MEASURES TO REDUCE RISK FACTORS
Avoid the risks listed above as much as possible.
Use latex condoms each time you have sexual intercourse. This is important if you or your partner has had multiple previous partners.
Get regular pelvic exams.
Get regular Pap smears. It is a test done to detect cancer of the cervix in an early and treatable stage.
Usually curable with early diagnosis and treatment.
If cervical cancer is not treated early, it can spread to other parts of the body, which can be fatal.
Complications often occur from treatments.
DIAGNOSIS & TREATMENT
Your health care provider will do a physical exam and a pelvic exam. Medical tests will be done, first to diagnose the cancer, and then others to see if it has spread (called staging).
Surgery is usually done to remove the cancerous area.During early cancer stages, this may involve only a small area of the cervix. This will still allow childbearing. The surgery is usually done as an outpatient.
The cancer cells may be frozen (cryotherapy), cut out with an electrical loop, burned away by laser, or removed in a cone biopsy. Your health care provider will explain these options and any risk factors involved.
More advanced stages may require removal of the reproductive organs and other affected tissue (radical hysterectomy).
Chemotherapy and radiation therapy (internal, external, or both) are other treatments for advanced cancer.
To learn more: The American Cancer Society, 800-ACS-2345, website: www.cancer.org; or the National Cancer Institute at 800-4-CANCER, website: www.nci.nih.gov.
Anticancer drugs (chemotherapy) may be prescribed.
Usually no limits.
Avoid tampons following surgery.
You will be advised when you can resume sexual activity.
Eat a well-balanced diet. Nutritional supplements may be needed if regular food cannot be tolerated.
NOTIFY OUR OFFICE IF
You or a family member has persistent vaginal bleeding or other symptoms of cervical cancer.
You have not had a pelvic exam or Pap smear in the past year.