Caring Gynae
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Cervical Cancer / Dysplasia

Cervical cancer can often be found early, and sometimes even prevented entirely, by having regular Pap tests. If detected early, cervical cancer is one of the most successfully treatable cancers. It is one of the gynaecological cancers or women's cancers.

According to American Cancer Society, cervical cancer starts in the cells lining the cervix -- the lower part of the uterus (womb). This is sometimes called the uterine cervix. The fetus grows in the body of the uterus (the upper part). The cervix connects the body of the uterus to the vagina (birth canal). The part of the cervix closest to the body of the uterus is called the endocervix. The part next to the vagina is the exocervix (or ectocervix). The 2 main types of cells covering the cervix are squamous cells (on the exocervix) and glandular cells (on the endocervix). These 2 cell types meet at a place called the transformation zone. The exact location of the transformation zone changes as you age and if you give birth.

Cervical cancer starts with pre-cancerous changes (pre-cancers). Cervical pre-cancers usually take several years to develop into full blown cervical cancer, but this change can take place in less than a year in some cases.

Whilst one of the most common symptoms of cervical cancer is abnormal vaginal bleeding, there are cases where obvious symptoms are completely absent until the cancer has progressed to an advanced stage. The good news is that treating all pre-cancers can prevent the development of almost all true cancers, so early detection is extremely important. That is why women must keep a close check on their health and undergo regular checkups with qualified specialists.

The main types of cervical cancers are squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma.

Prevention

Many medical centres and hospitals in Malaysia agree that women can do a few things during their lifetime to reduce the chances of getting cervical cancer.

HPV Vaccination: This is a primary prevention for cervical cancer. This vaccine is available in most medical centres and hospitals in Malaysia since 2006 in Malaysia. This vaccine is to protect women from the HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) that can cause cervical cancer. Women worldwide are encouraged to get vaccinated because it plays a key role in strengthening your immunity to fight these viruses. In fact, the Malaysian Ministry of Health is giving this vaccination out school girls of certain ages for free. Adults can be vaccinated as well, but they will have to purchase it themselves.

Screening

Pap Smear (Papanicolau test): Even though a woman has been vaccinated, she will still need to undergo regular Pap smears at least once a year to be safe. The Pap smear is the most basic and widely applied screening test for cervical cancer in the world, performed to detect cervical cancer from a very early stage onwards – at the first sight of pre cancer cells. If a woman has only been found to have pre cancer cells in her cervix, the treatment is very simple, straightforward, and much cheaper as compared to a more advanced stage of cervical cancer.

Unfortunately, Pap smears can be perceived as being costly, especially because many women are still unaware of the importance of this screening process. Some women are also worried about undergoing this process as it may look a painful and uncomfortable experience, and it can be if performed by inexperienced or poorly trained personnel. In fact, anxiety from the patient may add to that discomfort by causing a bit of strain in her posture, making it more difficult for the doctor or medical attendant to perform the Pap smear. But Pap smears should not be a painful experience if done correctly.

Symptoms

  • Cervical erosion

  • Cervical erosion: cervical cancer patients usually are accompanied with cervical erosion, and severe cervical erosion is both main factor and symptom of cervical cancer.
  • Contact bleeding

  • Contact bleeding: contact bleeding is the most prominent sign of cervical cancer, which can be found in the form of colporrhagia in 70%~80% of cervical cancer patients. It often appears with fresh blood in vaginal secretion during sexual activities, gynecological examinations, or making great effort when loosening stools.
  • Irregular vaginal bleeding

  • Irregular vaginal bleeding: Menstrual period come back to old women years after menopause. As there will be no symptom like stomachache or waist pain, and the bleeding amount is usually low, it is easily ignored. However, irregular vaginal bleeding is early sign of cervical cancer, which has called many elder patients’ attention to go to hospital and thus helped them with early diagnosis and treatment.
  • Pain

  • Pain: pain usually occurs in the lower stomach or lumbar-sacral area, sometimes in the upper stomach, thigh and hip joint. It becomes severer in menstrual period, defecation or sexual activities. Especially when the inflammation spreads backwards to the utero-sacral ligament or along the bottom of broad ligament, chronic inflammation of connective tissue next to uterus is formed and cervical cardinal ligament thickens, the pain will become even severer. When touched in the cervix, patients will feel pain in the iliac fossa and the lumbar-sacral area, while some other patients can even have symptoms like nausea.
  • Increasing vaginal secretion

  • Increasing of vaginal secretion: Clinically, about 75%~85% of patients have various degrees of vaginal secretion increase. Most of them appear as increasing of leucorrhoea, which later is accompanied with smell and color changes. Due to the stimulation of the lesion, cervical glands becomes active in its secretion function and produce mucoid leucorrhoea. The abnormalities of the leucorrhoea, including amount increasing and characteristic changing, are early signs of cervical cancer.

    Experts from Caring Gynae reminds that, if you have above symptoms, go to the hospital timely for examination and treatment.

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