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Gynaecologic Problems: Cervical Cancer

Description

If abnormal cells on the surface of the cervix ( precancerous conditions of the cervix : abnormal cells present, but are not cancerous) spread deeper into the cervix, or to other tissues or organs, the disease is then called cervical cancer, or invasive cervical cancer.
Cervical cancer occurs most often in women over the age of 40. It is different from cancer that begins in other parts of the uterus and requires different treatment. Most cervical cancers are squamous cell carcinomas (squamous cells are the flat cells found on the surface of the cervix) and adenocarcinomas . See also vaginal cancer .

For information on the other main cancers to affect the female reproductive system go here .

Symptoms and Signs

Symptoms of cervical cancer usually do not appear until abnormal cervical cells become cancerous and invade nearby tissue. The most common symptom is abnormal bleeding, which may start and stop between regular menstrual periods and/or occur after sexual intercourse, douching, or a pelvic exam. Other symptoms may include:

  • Heavier menstrual bleeding, which may last longer than usual.
  • Bleeding after menopause.
  • Increased vaginal discharge.
  • Pain during intercourse.

Only a physical examination can tell if these symptoms are caused by cancer or other health problems.

Diagnosis and Treatment

When cervical problems are found during a pelvic examination , or abnormal cells are found through a Pap test , the following procedures may be used to further diagnose the findings:

Specific treatment for cervical cancer will be determined by factors such as overall health and medical history, extent of the disease and expectations for the course of the disease. Generally, treatment options include:

  • Surgery , including cryosurgery, laser surgery and hysterectomy.
  • Radiation therapy .
  • Chemotherapy

Early detection of cervical problems is the best way to prevent cervical cancer. Routine, annual pelvic examinations and Pap tests can detect precancerous conditions that often can be treated before cancer develops. Invasive cancer that does occur would likely be found at an earlier stage. Pelvic examinations and Pap tests are the methods used to determine if there are cervical problems. Women who at risk should have regular checkups, including a pelvic exam and Pap test.

The information in this page is presented in summarised form and has been taken from the following source(s):
1. Motherisk, The Hospital for Sick Children: http://www.motherisk.org/


Other HON resources 
   From MedHunt
    (websites)


Cancer in women
    From HONselect
     (def;articles & more)   

 

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  http://www.hon.ch/Dossier/MotherChild/gynae_problems/cervical_cancer.html Last modified: Jun 25 2002