Cervical cancer is a very real danger that women need to be aware of and be mindful of. All girls who have passed puberty and all women must be cognisant of the signs and symptoms of cervical cancer. Research indicates that an average of 200,000 Indian women are diagnosed with cervical cancer every year. Worse, this largely not-talked-about cancer, proves fatal in about 50% of cases. Globally too, cervical cancer kills lakhs and lakhs of women, but over 85% of cervical cancer deaths come from middle and low income countries. (That includes us, whether or not you like the sound of it).
People are terrified of cancer and yet, cervical cancer is largely hushed (like everything related to women’s reproductive and sexual health) despite the fact that 7.5% of all female cancer deaths are attributed to cervical cancer. It is the second largest cancer-based killer of women in countries like ours. About 22 to 25 of every 100,000 Indian women are estimated to die of cervical cancer.
In this post, we are going to talk about three basic aspects of cervical cancer that Qi all women above the age of 15 must be aware of.
Good job on upping your awareness as the first step towards mindfulness and self care. Additionally, if you are a parent or an educator, consider what you can do to create awareness among girls and women in your care.
What is cervical cancer
Cervical cancer is cancer of the cervix , which is the part that joins the uterus to the birth canal or vagina.
Cervical cancer causes
1. In most cases of cervical cancer, the root cause is what is known as an HPV infection. The human papilloma virus, or HPV, is also the cause of STD or STI transmission among both men and women. You may be surprised, but in some American colleges, all girl students have to receive the HPV vaccine in order to safeguard them from cervical cancer as the likelihood of them becoming sexually active in college is fairly high.
Other cervical cancer causes include
2. Poor genital hygiene
3. Sexual intercourse beginning at too young an age
4. Multiple sexual partners
5. Too high a number of pregnancies
7. Use of oral contraceptives
8. Overall lack of awareness (which results in missing the cervical infection symptoms which leads to cancer)
10. HIV, which might lower one’s immune response of HPV
Signs of cervical cancer
Watch for the signs of cervical cancer – which might simply also be causes of less alarming sexual and reproductive health disorders – in order to catch it early.
Catching and tackling cervical cancer in its nascent stages can help the patient walk away cured if all goes well. The problem – in most cases – is that women ignore signs that should cause alarm. Moreover, they tend to ignore signs and symptoms of cervical cancer, until the cancer has reached a very advanced stage and they can no longer make excuses for their discomfort and ill health. Only at this point will a lot of women agree to visit a doctor and then the testing begins and by this time it might be too late to make an actual change.
Cervical cancer must be nipped in the bud. If you witness any of these symptoms, see a gynaecologist immediately. It might be something else – and it will be a great relief if so – but in any case, these symptoms are warning signs of something underlying issue or the other.
- Abnormal bleeding that occurs between periods
- Bleeding after sexual intercourse
- Discomfort occurring during sexual intercourse
- Renewed bleeding in menopausal women
- Vaginal discharge with an especially strong odour
- Blood in vaginal discharge
- Pain in the lower abdomen and/or pelvis
Cervical cancer stages
Cervical cancer has four stages and several sub stages. Up until the fourth stage, it is quite possible to get rid of the cancer and go back to living a normal life.
- Stage I – the cancer has spread from the cervix to the uterus but is contained within the uterus
- Stage II – the cancer has spread beyond the uterus, perhaps to the vagina, but is still contained within the pelvic area
- Stage III – this get complex and critical at this stage because nearby organs, such as the kidneys, might become affected by the spreading cancer.
- Stage IV – the cancer has spread beyond, to other parts of the body
There are sub stages within each stage that pertain to the exact dimensions of the growing tumour in stage I and stage II and more precise phases related to the spread of the cancer in stage III and IV.
As you can see, caught and tacked in stage I, cervical cancer can be gotten rid of.
Cervical cancer treatment
If you, or a loved one have been diagnosed with cervical cancer, stay calm and speak to your doctor about the various treatment options available. You have four treatment routes available to you and in some cases, a combination might be recommended.
- Radiation therapy
- Targeted therapy
The key to winning the battle against cervical cancer is early detection and of course, mindfulness from teen years can help women minimise their chances of getting cervical cancer in the first place, by tackling the causes. Talk to your daughters, mothers, sisters and gal pals about the risk of cervical cancer. If you are in HR or education, use your power to ensure awareness and screening drives.