Cervical Cancer is one of the cancers that affect women worldwide. It is believed that those women having Human PapillomaVirus (HPV) infection are most likely to develop cervical cancer. Therefore, it is important for women to undergo regular pap tests in the early stages for detection of this cancer. Uterine cervix is the lowest part of a woman’s womb which connects vagina with the uterus. Cervical cancer develops when cells of the cervix region grow at an abnormal rate & interfere with other tissues & organs. However, this type of cancer is slow-growing, so its evolution through precancerous changes brings opportunities for early detection & treatment. According to the latest health reports, most women diagnosed with precancerous changes in cervical area are in their 20s & 30s & that cervical cancer can be prevented if appropriate steps are taken in time.
What is Cervical Cancer?
Cervix is a part of uterus which is also known as the neck of the uterus within the reproductive system of women. It is a very narrow part that connects uterus & vagina. When abnormal cells multiply in cervix then it may often become life-threatening. They soon start rapidly multiplying & invade other tissues & cells & spread all over the body. Blood is a medium through which cancer spreads across the body; the process of migration of cancer cells is known as metastasis.
It is said that the main cause of cervical cancer is HPV or Human Papilloma Virus & which makes severe abnormal changes within the cells of cervix. Other causes for cervical cancer are stated below.
- Early sexual intercourse
- Multiple sexual partners
- Impaired immune system
- Excessive cigarette smoking
- Use of oral contraceptives for longer duration
- Infections or Sexual Transmitted Diseases
It is difficult to identify cervical cancer. However, several significant symptoms of cervical cancer may include the following.
- Abnormal cervical cell changes (rare)
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding between menstrual periods or after sex or after menopause
- Pain during sex
- Abnormal vaginal discharge
- Unexplained changes in menstrual cycle
Following is a list of advanced cervical cancer symptoms.
- Anemia due to abnormal vaginal bleeding
- Continuous pelvic, leg or back pain
- Urinary problems because of blockage of kidney or ureter
- Leakage of urine or stool into the vagina. It happens when fistula has developed between the vagina & the bladder or rectum
Cervical cancer develops when cells lining the cervix region begin to show abnormal changes. Over a certain period of time, these cells may become cancerous. Basically, there are two main types of cervical cancer which can be distinguished by their appearance under a microscope.
- Squamous Cell Carcinomas – They develop in the flat, thin cells that line the bottom part of the cervix. This kind of cervical cancer accounts for nearly 90 percent of cervical cancers.
- Adenocarcinomas – They develop in glandular cells that line the upper portion of cervix. These cancers make up 10 to 20 percent of all cervical cancers.
- Metastatic Cervical Cancer – It is a type of cervical cancer which has spread to other regions of the body.
As with any type of cancer, early diagnosis of cervical cancer is an essential factor to successful treatment & cure. Diagnosis of cervical cancer can be done with the help of following tests.
- Pap test – During this test, surgeons’ brush & scrape cells from patient’s cervix, which are then evaluated in a lab to check for abnormalities. Pap test can easily identify abnormal cells in the cervix region, including cancerous cells that may indicate risk of cervical cancer.
- HPV DNA Test – The HPV DNA test involves examining cells taken from the cervix region for any infection caused due to HPV that may lead to cervical cancer. This test may be an alternative for women aged 28 years & older or for young women with poor results of Pap test.
When cervical cancer is suspected, surgeons are likely to start with a thorough evaluation of the patient’s cervix. A special magnifying tool is used to view for abnormalities in cells of this area. During this process, the doctor is likely to take a few samples of cervical cells for further laboratory testing. To collect tissues, surgeons may use the following procedures.
- Punch Biopsy – It involves using a sharp instrument to pinch off samples of cervical tissue.
- Endocervical Curettage – It uses a tiny, spoon-shaped tool or a thin brush to scrape tissues from the cervix.
- Cone Biopsy – It is a procedure that allows surgeons to acquire deeper layers of cells in cervix region for laboratory testing.
Treatment for cervical cancer mostly depends upon factors such as the extent of cancer, other health issues patients may have & their preferences. Surgery, chemotherapy, radiation or sometimes a combination of these three may be used.
- Surgery – Surgery is the most effective treatment of cervical cancer at an earlier stage. It all depends upon the size, type & location of cancer. Cervical cancer in initial stages is generally treated with surgery to eliminate the uterus. However, removing the uterus makes it impossible for patients to become pregnant in future.
- Radiation Therapy – It is often used with surgery & uses high-dose x-rays in the vaginal cavity in order to kill cancer cells. Radiation therapy can be applied in the following ways.
- Externally, by focusing & guiding a radiation beam at the affected portion of the body.
- Internally, by placing an equipment packed with radioactive material inside patient’s vagina, generally for a shorter period.
- Both internally & externally.
- Chemoradiation – It is a combination of chemotherapy & radiation therapy which treats both early-stage & late-stage cervical cancers. Chemotherapy kills or shrinks cancerous cells & may be used for treating advanced cancers as well.
Patients will be thoroughly evaluated during initial consultation meeting with oncologists. Oncologists will examine the complete health status of patients in order to check if they are medically fit to undergo treatment for cervical cancer. Patients will be told to quit smoking & stop consuming alcohol in excessive quantities. Oncologists will decide a suitable treatment plan for patients depending upon their health conditions.
Following is a list of queries which cervical cancer patients may frankly ask the surgeons during pre-treatment consultation session.
- Can you explain to me what type of cervical cancer do I have?
- How many cervical cancer patients do you treat on an annual basis?
- What can I do now?
- Has my cancer spread beyond the cervical area?
- Can you describe my treatment alternatives?
- What treatment is appropriate for me & why?
- What are the risks & side-effects to the treatment you recommend for me?
- Will I be able to get pregnant after my cervical cancer treatment?
- What shall I do if I want to have kids in future?
- What are the chances my cervical cancer will come back even after undergoing the treatment we have agreed upon?
- Do I need to follow a special diet after my treatment?
- What are my chances of survival?
- Do I have to wear a wig if chemotherapy makes me lose my hair?
- What do I tell my husband, children & other family members?
For some patients with cervical cancer, treatment may completely remove or destroy cancerous cells. Completing cervical cancer treatment can be both stressful & exciting. Patients might be relieved to complete treatment, but find it difficult not to worry about cancer recurrence. This is a very common concern in patients who have had cancer. It may take some time before patient’s fears lessen. But it may help to understand that a number of cancer survivors have overcome this state of mind & are living full-fledged lives.
There are various risks & potential complications associated with each cervical cancer treatment like surgery, radiation or chemotherapy. They are listed below. Side-effects & complications associated with surgery depend upon the type of surgery which has been used.
- Hysterectomy – As it involves removal of the uterus, patients will not be able to get pregnant afterwards.
- Bladder Damage – There is a high risk of bladder damage during cervical cancer surgery.
- Urinary Problems – Urinary problems are generally temporary & may get cured with time.
Radiation therapy can cause various complications. Some short-term side-effects of radiation therapy are listed below.
- Loose bowels
- Upset stomach
- Vaginal dryness
- Premature menopause
- Painful intercourse
- Problems with urination
Various chemotherapy regimens have their own particular sets of potential complications & side effects. Some of the common chemotherapy side effects include the following.
- Nausea and vomiting
- Hair loss
- Loss of appetite
- Mouth sores
- Increased bleeding or bruising
- Increased risk of infection
These complications can be handled by taking proper care & maintaining a positive attitude. Regular follow-up sessions are the key to avoiding these complications in future.
Hysterectomy, chemotherapy, chemo-radiation & radiation therapy are various treatments that are available for cervical cancer. Removal of ovaries, fallopian tubes & pelvic lymph nodes relieve symptoms of cancer. It is most effective for early stage cervical cancers to increase life expectancy. Chemotherapy & radiation will kill or shrink growth of cancer & thereby extend & improve overall quality of life for patients. HPV vaccination reduces risk of cancerous as well as pre-cancerous changes of cervix. It is always better to perform regular Pap tests because it shows any changes within cells before they turn into cancerous cells.
Medical Tourism in India for Cervical Cancer Treatments
India is an ideal medical tourism destination for a variety of surgeries right from the traditional to the minimal invasive procedures. Medical facilities & laboratories in India are well equipped with modern computerized equipment so as to perform diagnostics & surgeries. There are many premium, accredited & super specialty hospitals with state-of-the-art infrastructure in the country. Overall surgery with post-operative care costs is quite affordable in India as well. Doctors are highly trained in various types of surgical procedures. Professional healthcare team at Travcure attends patients round the clock so as to keep check on all medical needs of patients.
Affordable Cervical Cancer Treatment with Travcure Medical Tourism
Travcure Medical Tourism consultants help patients find the best cervical cancer treatment & surgical solution in India. Providing outstanding medical provisions & cost effective treatment packages from top healthcare giants like Apollo, Fortis, Max Healthcare & many more, Travcure has access to top-notch gynecologic oncologists & cervical cancer experts. Travcure always ensures that international patients receive transparent, high-quality, seamless, affordable & hassle-free extensive range of treatments & services.
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