Dr. Guy Gutman, M.D. is a senior expert and a leading surgeon in the field

Cervical Cancer- Prevention and Treatment

Cervical cancer is a common disease for women most often caused by the papillomavirus (HPV).

Cervical cancer can affect fertility, and most often occurs in women under the age of 65. The good news is that we have tools to prevent the spread of cervical cancer. 

  • The first method to reduce the chances of getting cervical cancer is by getting the HPV vaccine! 
  • The second method is by getting routine checks (Pap test, colposcopy) done. 

These quick and efficient tests can identify early signs of cervical cancer. Routine checkups every three years can save lives and prevent the spread of cancer.

Let's get back to basics: What is cervical cancer?

This cancer occurs in the cervical cells. The cervix is the area that connects the uterus and the vagina (birth canal). Cervical cancer can be detected in a routine examination without any prior symptoms. This is why it is so important to come in and have yourself routinely checked. It is important to note that there are common symptoms that women report experiencing.

The symptoms can be: 

→ Bleeding in between periods

→ Discomfort during sexual intercourse 

→ Bleeding after sexual intercourse

It should note that these symptoms do not necessarily indicate having cancer. Still, it is vital to go to the gynecologist to be examined to onset these symptoms.

Of the cases of cervical cancer, the most prominent cause is the human papillomavirus which damages the skin cells and mucous membranes. There are many strains of this virus (about 150), with some of these strains causing the appearance of warts, and some of them, as mentioned, causing pre-cancerous changes in the cells.

A large portion of those who are sexually active will be exposed to and infected with the human papillomavirus, but thanks to our immune system, most women who become infected with the virus will not develop cervical cancer! 

Only a tiny proportion of the cells are at risk of becoming malignant or premalignant cells – and even in such cases, if these changes are caught through the Pap test, it is possible to treat accordingly and prevent development.

And let’s mention again, there is a vaccine for some strains of the human papillomavirus!

If you want more information on this vaccine, a link is available here

What can cause this disease?

• Having sex with multiple partners or having sex from an early age. 

• It should be noted that using a condom will reduce the risk of infection, but if the lesion is found in an area that the condom does not cover, using a condom will not be 100% effective in preventing disease.

• Smoking can also heighten the risk of cervical cancer

Cervical Cancer- Prevention and Treatment

Existing Types of Cervical Cancer

There are two types of cervical cancer, and the treatment of both is the same:

• Squamous cell carcinoma – This type of cervical cancer begins in the squamous cells lining the outer part of the cervix, which projects into the vagina. Most cervical cancers are squamous cell carcinomas.

• Adenocarcinoma – The cervix has epithelial cells inside the passage that runs from the cervix to the womb. Adenocarcinoma is a less common form of cancer than squamous cell cancer.

Preventive Treatment for Cervical Cancer

There are preventative options available now! 

• The papillomavirus vaccine – these vaccines protect against infection with the familiar strains of the papillomavirus, but they only prevent future cases of illness. This means, if you are already infected, the virus will not be a therapeutic vaccine. In addition, they do not cover/prevent all types of papillomavirus strains.  

• Another treatment is a test for early detection. This test exists to detect precancerous changes to the cells. These tests can observe premalignant lesions, and the onset of cervical cancer can be prevented. This test is called a PAP test, recommended for women between 25 and 65, once every three years. It is performed by taking a sample of cell tissue surface from the cervix, this test is sent for testing, and there, they will determine if there are precancerous cells and if a re-examination or further treatment is needed.

Preventive Treatment for Cervical Cancer

As mentioned, in the early stages there are almost no obvious symptoms. In slightly more advanced stages the symptoms will be:

• Vaginal bleeding between cycles that will occur after intercourse, between menstrual cycles or during menopause.

• Abnormal discharge and simulated secretions, sometimes accompanied by a bad odor.

• Pelvic pain during intercourse.

 

Remember! Not all abnormal menstrual bleeding means you have cancer, but you should contact your gynecologist for clarification.

Dr. Guy Gutman

A senior physician at the Clalit Health Women’s Center, a specialist in gynecology and cervical medicine, with 20 years of successful experience in infertility, obstetrics, and gynecology.

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