January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month and an important time to discuss this often-unknown type of cancer. Cervical cancer is when cancer starts in the cervix, the narrow tunnel-like organ that forms a canal between the vagina and the uterine cavity. It is found in the lower part of the uterus. It allows fluids to pass between the uterus and the vagina.
The main cause of cervical cancer is a long-lasting human papillomavirus (HPV) infection, which can happen when the virus is passed from one person to another during sexual intercourse. Other risk factors for cervical cancer include having an immune condition that makes it hard for the body to fight health problems, smoking, and having given birth to three or more children.
Cervical Cancer Symptoms
The cervix is made of two different types of cells – glandular cells and squamous cells. And cervical cancer starts when these cells undergo pre-cancerous changes, which develop into cancer. The main types of cervical cancers are squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma.
In its early stages, cervical cancer typically doesn’t involve any symptoms and therefore is difficult to detect. It isn’t until cervical cancer has developed for a few years and progressed that it shows signs and symptoms. The following are signs and symptoms common in stage 1 cervical cancer:
- Heavier and longer than usual menstrual periods
- Heavy and watery or bloody vaginal discharge
- Bleeding between periods, after sex, or after menopause
When cervical cancer has advanced and spread to surrounding organs and tissues, it can present the following symptoms:
- Pelvic pain
- Swelling in the legs
- Dull backache
- Feeling of illness
- Weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Painful urination
- Bloody urine
- Pain or bleeding from the rectum when passing stool
Cervical Cancer Screening
Most cases of cervical cancer can be detected through a gynecological screening with a Pap smear. A sample tissue for biopsy may be necessary if your doctor suspects you have cervical cancer.
Tampa Bay Radiation Oncology is dedicated to providing the best and most advanced radiation treatment options for women with gynecologic cancer. This includes external (Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy or Image-Guided Radiation Therapy), internal (Brachytherapy) radiation therapies, as well as CyberKnife® radiosurgery.
Brachytherapy treatment is a form of radiation therapy that implants brachytherapy seeds into or near the tumor to kill the cancer cells. Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy uses precise imaging techniques and a linear accelerator to deliver radiation to the cancer three-dimensionally. Image-Guided Radiation Therapy is an advanced radiotherapy treatment that targets cancer more precisely and spares more of the surrounding healthy tissue.
The CyberKnife® System represents the next generation of radiosurgery systems with its intelligent robotics, a combination of continual image-guidance technology, and a compact linear accelerator that can move in three dimensions.
Contact Tampa Bay Radiation Oncology today for more information about cancer-fighting tips.