what is cervical cancer and its symptoms

Cervical Cancer: Symptoms, Causes, Types and Treatment

Cervical cancer is a fatal ailment characterised by the abnormal growth of cells in the cervix, the lowermost part of the uterus. Prevention of Cervical Cancer generally revolves around various timely gynaecological exams, Pap tests, alongside practising safe sex. Primary treatments available for Cervical Cancer include surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.

Table of Content

1.0 What is Cervical Cancer?
2.0 Types of Cervical Cancer
3.0 Cervical Cancer Awareness
4.0 How common is Cervical Cancer?
5.0 Cervical Cancer Signs and Symptoms
6.0 Signs & Symptoms of Cervical Cancer – Stage 1
7.0 Cervical Cancer Causes
8.0 How is Cervical Cancer treated?
9.0 Is Death a Real Possibility in Cervical Cancer?
10.0 Key Takeaways
11.0 Safeguard your journey to parenthood with Banker IVF

What is Cervical Cancer?

Cervical Cancer is a type of cancer that starts off from the surface of the cervix, the lowermost part of one’s uterus. The latter happens when the cells of the cervix gradually begin to transform into precancerous cells. 

While not every precancerous cell holds the threat of turning into a cancerous one, diagnosing and treating them within a crucial time frame becomes imperative to prevent the occurrence of Cervical Cancer. 

Types of Cervical Cancer

1. Squamous Cell Carcinomas (SCC):

Comprising approximately 80% to 90% of cervical cancers, squamous cell carcinomas are the predominant when it comes to Cervical Cancer.

2. Adenocarcinomas:

Representing 10% to 20% of cervical cancers, adenocarcinomas constitute the second major type.

Cervical Cancer Awareness

Although January has concluded, our commitment to cervical cancer awareness persists throughout the year. February serves as a continued opportunity for us to emphasise the importance of understanding cervical cancer and advocating in favour of HPV vaccination. 

Reflecting on the theme set for Cervical Cancer Awareness Month – aiming to end cervical cancer within a few generations – we remain steadfast in our dedication to spread awareness vis-a-vis preventive measures and comprehensive women’s health. 

Beyond the designated month, we continue to champion awareness, education, as well as proactive healthcare to ensure a future wherein cervical cancer is no longer a prevalent cause of concern.  

How common is Cervical Cancer?

  • Approximately 14,000 individuals in the US receive a cervical cancer diagnosis annually. 
  • Cervical cancer diagnoses are particularly common among individuals aged 35 to 44.
  • Generally, the average age at which cervical cancer is diagnosed is somewhere around 50.
  • Every year an estimated 4,000 people succumb to cervical cancer.
  • The mortality rate for cervical cancer is decreasing, attributed to widespread screenings and the adoption of the HPV vaccine.

Cervical Cancer Signs and Symptoms

The signs and symptoms of Cervical Cancer are not too conspicuous in its early stages. These symptoms are hard to detect and often take as long as several years to fully develop. 

The best, most pragmatic way to prevent the occurrence of cervical cancer is by recognising the presence of any abnormal cells in the early stages of cervical cancer screenings.

Signs & Symptoms of Cervical Cancer - Stage 1

Abnormal Vaginal Discharge:

An abnormally watery or bloody discharge that is often heavy and has a potential foul odour.

Post-Intercourse or Inter-Menstrual Bleeding: 

Vaginal bleeding occurs after intercourse, between menstrual periods, or after menopause.

Irregular Menstrual Periods: 

Menstrual cycles are characterised by increased heaviness and prolonged duration compared to normal. 

Signs & Symptoms of Cervical Cancer - After Spreading to Nearby Tissues, Organs

Urinary Issues: 

Difficulty or pain during urination, occasionally accompanied by blood in the urine.

Gastrointestinal Symptoms: 

Diarrhoea, pain, or rectal bleeding during bowel movements.

Systemic Signs: 

Fatigue, unexplained weight loss, and a diminished appetite.

General Malaise:

A pervasive sense of feeling unwell.

Experiencing the aforementioned symptoms, especially abnormal bleeding and vaginal discharge must not be taken for granted. An individual experiencing these symptoms must go through a thorough gynaecological examination that includes a Pap Test.

Cervical Cancer Causes

Primary Cause:

Most cases of cervical cancer result from the Human Papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted infection.

HPV Transmission: 

HPV is primarily spread through sexual contact, encompassing anal, oral, or vaginal interactions, potentially leading to cancer.

Common HPV Incidence:

Many individuals contract HPV at some point in their lives; often, the body naturally fights and clears the infection. However, persistent infection can prompt cervical cell changes, progressing to cancer.

Diverse HPV Strains:

Among the 100+ HPV types, around a dozen have been linked to cancer. Early identification of these cancer-associated HPV types is crucial for cervical cancer prevention.

Regular screenings with healthcare providers play a vital role in detecting cell changes before they evolve into cancer, facilitating early intervention.

Additionally, HPV vaccine is a preventative measure against specific HPV strains, that guards against up to 90% of cervical cancers.

How is Cervical Cancer treated?

Cervical cancer is generally treated by a specialised team of expert medical professionals led by a gynecologic oncologist. When it comes to 5treating cervical cancer, it becomes imperative to consider factors like disease stage, age, and future fertility desires. 

Treatment options for Cervical Cancer include 

  1. Radiation
  2. Chemotherapy
  3. Surgery
  4. Targeted therapy
  5. Immunotherapy

Radiation Therapy:

  • External Beam Radiation Therapy (EBRT): High-powered radiation targets cervical cancer from an external machine.
  • Brachytherapy: Places radiation directly into or close to the cancer.

Chemotherapy (Chemo):

  • Drugs are injected through veins or taken orally to kill cancer cells.
  • They then enter the blood and act against cells throughout the body.
  • Here, several drugs may be combined for treatment.
  • Chemo is given in cycles with varying lengths and schedules depending on the drug and cancer location.

Surgery for Cervical Cancer:

Laser Surgery: Uses laser beam to eliminate cancer cells.

Cryosurgery: Freezes cancer cells for removal.

Cone Biopsy: Removes cone-shaped tissue from the cervix.

Simple Hysterectomy: Uterus removal without adjacent tissue, vagina, or pelvic lymph nodes

Radical Hysterectomy with Pelvic Lymph Node Dissection: Removes uterus, parametrium, cervix, upper vagina, and pelvic lymph nodes.

Trachelectomy: Removes cervix and upper vagina, preserving the uterus.

Pelvic Exenteration: Radical hysterectomy alongside the removal of bladder, vagina, rectum, and part of the colon as needed based on cancer spread.

In early stages, removal of cancerous tissue can cure the disease. In advanced cases, procedures like simple or radical hysterectomy may be performed.

Targeted Therapy:

  • Targeted therapy is essentially a specific drug treatment that destroys certain targeted cancer cells, sparing healthy ones.
  • It targets proteins controlling cancer cell growth and spread.
  • Evolving treatments designed based on increased understanding of cancer cells.


  • Immunotherapy stimulates the immune system using medicine to recognize and eliminate cancer cells. 
  • Cancer cells often use signals to evade the immune system.
  • It targets these signals, preventing cancer cells from deceiving the body. 

While some individuals may explore supplementary approaches including the likes of dietary changes, herbal remedies, acupuncture, and other methods alongside conventional cancer treatment, it is crucial to consult with your healthcare provider.

Discussing alternative methods that claim to alleviate cancer symptoms ensures a comprehensive understanding of their potential benefits and possible risks. While certain alternatives may offer relief, it is essential to be mindful that some could have adverse effects on your overall health.

Is Death a Real Possibility in Cervical Cancer?

Mortality Possibility:

Although less frequent than in the past, it is still possible to succumb to cervical cancer.

Statistical Estimate:

The American Cancer Society (ACS) projected around 4,250 cervical cancer-related deaths in the United States for the year 2019.

Pap Test Impact:

The primary reason for the declining mortality rate is the increased utilisation of the Pap test.

Global Disparities:

Cervical cancer is more prevalent in underdeveloped regions, with approximately 311,000 worldwide deaths reported in 2018.

Curability Factor:

Cervical cancer is treatable, particularly when diagnosed and addressed in its early stages.

Key Takeaways

Cervical Cancer Awareness:

  • Essential to focus on timely gynaecological exams, Pap tests, and safe sex for the prevention of cervical cancer.
  • Dedicated awareness should go beyond designated months, alongside constant emphasis on HPV vaccination.

Types of Cervical Cancer:

  • Predominantly squamous cell carcinomas (80-90%) and adenocarcinomas (10-20%).

Prevalence and Mortality:

  • Approx. 14,000 annual diagnoses in the US, common in individuals aged 35-44.
  • Mortality rate decreasing due to widespread screenings and HPV vaccines.

Signs and Symptoms:

  • Early-stage symptoms are subtle, emphasising the importance of screenings.
  • Vigilance is needed for abnormal discharge, bleeding, and broader health impacts.

Cervical Cancer Causes:

  • Primary cause: Human Papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted infection.
  • Importance of preventive measures like HPV vaccinations and regular screenings.

Mortality Possibility:

  • While less frequent, still possible; estimated 4,250 deaths in the US (2019).
  • Increased Pap test utilisation contributes to declining mortality rates.

Global Disparities and Curability:

  • Higher prevalence and mortality rates in underdeveloped regions.
  • Cervical cancer is treatable, especially in early stages, underscoring the importance of timely detection and intervention.

It is evident that awareness, proactive healthcare, and education stand as formidable allies against this potentially life-altering ailment. With a steadfast commitment to preventive measures, including timely screenings, Pap tests, and the advocacy for HPV vaccination, we aspire to foster a future where cervical cancer ceases to be a pervasive cause for concern. 

Our dedication regarding cervical cancer awareness must therefore extend beyond designated awareness months, ensuring that every day serves as an opportunity to educate and empower individuals in their pursuit of comprehensive women’s health. 

As we reflect on the global landscape, acknowledging the prevalence and challenges, it becomes imperative to underscore the significance of early detection and intervention, as cervical cancer, even with its treatable nature, demands vigilance and timely action. 

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