Cervical cancer starts in the cells of the cervix. A cancerous (malignant) tumor is a group of cancer cells that can invade nearby tissues and destroy them. The tumor can also spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body.
The cervix is part of a woman's reproductive system. It is the narrow lower part of the uterus (womb) and opens into the upper part of the vagina. It is a passage that connects the uterus to the vagina. Cells in the cervix can sometimes change and no longer grow or behave normally. These changes can lead to non-cancerous (benign) tumors such as polyps, cysts, or fibroids.
Changes in cervical cells can also cause precancerous conditions. This means that abnormal cells are not yet cancer, but there is a chance they could turn into cancer if left untreated.
Screening is a test for a disease in a group of people who do not have any symptoms of the disease. Screening tests can help detect cervical cancer before symptoms appear. If cervical cancer is detected early, the chances of successful treatment are higher. If you are sexually active, you should start getting regular Pap tests. Pap tests should be done every 1-3 years, depending on the results of your previous test. Consult with your gynecologist regarding this.
Important! Pap smear (oncology test) can be taken by a gynecologist in healthcare facilities contracted by the National Health Service of Ukraine, free of charge and without a referral from a family doctor.
Cervical cancer may not have any signs or symptoms in its early stages. Symptoms often appear when the tumor grows into surrounding tissues and organs. Other conditions may cause the same symptoms as cervical cancer.
Signs or symptoms of cervical cancer may include
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding, including periods, after menopause, and after sexual intercourse;- Abnormal or increased vaginal discharge;- Unpleasant odors from the vagina;- Unusually long or heavy periods;- Bleeding after pelvic exam or douching;- Pain during sexual intercourse;- Difficulty urinating;- Difficulty with bowel movements;- Urine or feces leaking from the vagina;- Pain in the pelvic area or lower back that may radiate to one or both legs;- Swelling in one leg (often);- Loss of appetite;- Weight loss;- Shortness of breath;- Coughing up blood; - Chest or bone pain;- Fatigue.
Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection
Most women who develop cervical cancer have had an HPV infection. However, having an HPV infection does not mean that you will definitely develop cervical cancer. Many different types of HPV can infect the cervix, but only some of them cause abnormal cell changes that can turn into cancer.
Being sexually active means more than just having sex with someone. It can mean:
• Any genital contact from skin to skin;
• Oral sex.
All women who have ever been sexually active are at risk of developing cervical cancer. This is because sexual activity can potentially expose you to HPV infection. Becoming sexually active at a young age can increase the risk of cervical cancer. Doctors believe this increased risk is associated with changes to the cervix during sexual maturation. These changes make female organs more vulnerable to damage.
The more children a woman gives birth to, the higher the risk of cervical cancer. However, there is no specific number of childbirths that increases the risk. It is still unclear how childbirths increase the risk of cervical cancer. This may be due to hormonal changes during pregnancy or trauma to the cervix during childbirth. Some studies suggest that women who have cesarean sections do not have a high risk of developing cervical cancer.
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) Infection
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) weakens the immune system. A weakened immune system increases the risk of infection with other infections, including HPV. Having a weakened immune system also increases the likelihood that HPV infection will not go away. HIV increases the risk that precancerous changes in cervical cells may progress to cervical cancer. HIV-positive women have a higher risk of developing cervical cancer, and precancerous cells are more likely to change into cervical cancer in HIV-positive women than in HIV-negative women.
The presence of sexually transmitted infections in the medical history
Women with HIV and chlamydia have a higher risk of developing cervical cancer. Researchers believe that prolonged inflammation caused by chlamydia complicates the body's ability to clear HPV infection, especially in cases of repeated chlamydia infections.
Infection with human herpesvirus 2 or HHV-2 may also be associated with a higher risk of cervical cancer in women with HIV.
Women who have been taking oral contraceptives for more than 5 years have a high risk of developing cervical cancer. This risk decreases over time after discontinuing the use of oral contraceptives.