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Another Gynecological Cancer to Be Aware Of

Another Gynecological Cancer to Be Aware Of
July 28
13:53 2017

In June, we wrote about the most common female reproductive cancer – endometrial cancer. This cancer is part of what is known as uterine cancer, since the endometrium is the lining on the inside of the uterus. Uterine cancer is only one of the five major groupings of gynecological cancers. The term ‘gynecological cancer’ refers to cancers that affect the various parts of the female reproductive system.

Each of the five groups are different with different symptoms and you need to be aware of them all. They have different risk factors and different strategies to prevent their development. The one thing in common with all of the different types of gynecological cancers is that the chances of development increases with age.

The five types of gynecological cancer are:

  • Cervical cancer
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Uterine cancer
  • Vaginal cancer
  • Vulvar cancer

Since we’ve already discussed endometrial cancer, which is part of uterine cancer, today we’ll look at cervical cancer and hopefully provide you with important facts and knowledge of what to look for.

Some sources define the cervix as the narrower and lower section of the uterus (the womb), but most sources define the cervix as being the muscular neck of the uterus where it connects to the vagina.

The cervix is composed of three areas:

  • Ectocervix – the outer section of the cervix that is seen with a gynecological exam. It is primarily made up of fibromuscular tissue.
  • External os – the opening in the center of the ectocervix that leads from the vagina to the uterus.
  • Endocervix – also known as the endocervical canal is the tunnel that leads from the external os into the uterus.

The cervix helps control whether or not a woman gets pregnant. The mucous in the cervix changes in consistency during the various parts of the menstrual cycle and this change can help prevent or promote pregnancy. During the right time in the menstrual cycle, the cervix will dilate a small amount to allow the menstrual flow to pass out of the vagina. During pregnancy, the cervix helps keep the developing baby safely in the womb (uterus), but at childbirth, the muscle in the cervix dilates to allow for the birth of baby.

The vast majority of cases of cervical cancers are linked to the human papillomavirus (HPV). This virus is extremely common and many women never show any signs or symptoms of having the virus. Actually, there are a number of viruses all classified as being an HPV. Some may only result in skin or genital warts and other forms of the virus can lead to cellular changes to the uterus which causes cervical cancer.

In addition to HPV being a leading risk factor for the development of cervical cancer, other risk factors include smoking, using some form of birth control pills for at least 5 or more years, having multiple sex partners and having given vaginal birth to three or more children.

Fortunately, today there is a vaccine for HPV and many doctors recommend all males and females beginning at age 11 to 12, up to age 26, to get the HPV vaccine.

Another form of prevention is having a regular Pap smear test. The test looks not only for cancer cells but also for pre-cancerous cells which can help with early detection. Pap tests are recommended for all women beginning at age 20 up to at least 65 and older. Other forms of prevention include not smoking, using condoms during sex and limiting your number of sex partners.

The early stages of cervical cancer may show no symptoms at all. As the cancer develops, it often causes bleeding or discharge from the vagina that is not normal for one’s menstrual cycle. It can also cause bleeding after sexual intercourse. If you have any of these symptoms, see your doctor.

If cervical cancer is left undetected or untreated, it can kill. A niece of ours died of cervical cancer shortly after giving birth to her only child. It’s estimated that each year about 12,820 women will be diagnosed with cervical cancer. Sadly, about 4,210 (1 in 3 cases) die from cervical cancer every year.

If detected, cervical cancer is usually treated via surgery, chemotherapy, and/or radiation. It depends on the stage of the cancer and how much it has spread. The important thing is get your HPV vaccine and have regular Pap tests. If you notice any unusual bleeding or discharge, especially after sex, talk to your doctor as soon as possible.

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