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Cervical Cancer by Zinajda Karahodzic

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You may think that cervical cancer is one common disease; it is but only in women. Lucky for the guys! The cervix is basically a tissue that is narrow shaped and leads from the uterus into the vagina. It allows substance in and out. It lets sperm in and menstrual fluid out so you can think of it as a door. How the cancer starts is when the cells on the cervix change abnormally and continues to grow or exposure to the Human Papillomavirus (HPV), type 16 and 18 most commonly, can also lead to this disease.

There are many risk factors associated with cervical cancer that has to do with sexual intercourse. Having too many sexual partners and sex at a very young age are both big factors. There are things that women do every day that can lead to this disease such as taking oral contraceptive pills for a long time, even smoking cigarettes! Getting annual checkups such as pelvic examination or Pap smear are ways to diagnose a patient for cervical cancer. Both exams can only be done by a specialist in the area. A pelvic exam is when he/she feels the cervix by hand and checks for abnormal tissue and a pap smear is a collection of cells from the cervix with a cotton swab. The earlier you get tested for the disease the higher your chances of surviving.

Cervical cancer has five stages which are listed as 0 through IV. Stage 0 is point when the cells change in the cervix and survival rate is at 100%. This is detected after the Pap smear test and those cells are examined under a microscope. Stage I is when there is cancer on the cervix and survival rate goes down to 85%, which isn’t bad if you get treatment right away. Stage II is when the cancer began to spread to the vagina and/or the tissue around the uterus, survival is at 50-60%. Stage III is when the cancer has spread to the pelvic walls, survival rate is about 30%. The final stage, Stage IV, is when the cancer has spread beyond the reproductive, possibly the bladder or rectum. It has also invaded other organs of the body such as the lung and/or liver. At this point, the survival rate is at 5% and pretty much considered not curable.

When someone is diagnosed with cervical cancer it is best to get treatment right away to avoid further complications. Treatment depends on the stage, size of tumor, age of patient, and the desire to have children. There are many different treatments to get such as the two most common: Radiation therapy and Chemotherapy. Radiation therapy is high levels of x-ray energy that travels through the body to kill the cancer cells. This procedure can also be done inside the body by a wire, catheter, or other devices which are places inside the body or near the cancerous area. Chemotherapy are basically drugs that stop the growth of cancer cells which can be taken orally or injected into a vein, muscle, spinal column, organ, or body cavity. These are all great treatments but they do come with complications because nothing in the health world is too good to be true.

Women would know if something was wrong with her because her body does not feel well and because she can simply tell that something doesn’t feel right. If you detect abnormal vaginal bleeding and a heavy discharge or foul smell, it’s a sign to get it checked out. Cervical cancer is also associated with pelvic pain which can be dull or sharp aches and could last for hours. Pain isn’t normal in the pelvic area even if it’s during urinating. Also bleeding between regular menstruation, after sexual intercourse, douching, and/or after a pelvic exam. Any symptoms such as these should be reported to a specialist who can provide further information and assistance. If the cancer has spread to other parts of the body then there is difficulty urinating, kidney failure, dull backache or swelling in the leg, and just a general feeling of illness.

To prevent this disease from spreading, women should avoid sexual activity and limiting the number of sex partners. Having an annual Pap smear exam is recommended after starting to be sexually active or at least every three years. Smoking is a risk factor and women should try to quit or never start to smoke. Gardasil is a vaccine that is designed to prevent infection with HPV, especially type 16 and 18 which cause about 70% of cervical cancer cases. This vaccine was approved by the Food and Drug administration (FDA) in June, 2001. The vaccine should be given before the HPV has infected the body so it is recommended to get the vaccine before you are sexually active.

In conclusion, it is good to know simple facts about different infections and diseases because something small as a cell can cost you your whole life! Getting treated as soon as possible is the best path to go on to avoid further complications. Anything abnormal that’s been going on for more than two weeks should always be checked. Cervical cancer is a serious case when it reaches Stage I. As you can tell, the survival rate goes down pretty quickly.


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