Cervical cancer is one of the forms of cancer that afflicts only women, accounting for more than 342,000 deaths in 2020 alone. Characterized by the cells of a woman’s cervix growing uncontrollably and abnormally, this form of cancer can rapidly spread to other parts the longer it is left undiagnosed and untreated.
Cancer can start almost anywhere in the human body, and different anatomies mean that some individuals are at a higher risk of contracting different forms of cancer than others. Understanding the differences between these types, as well as the risk factors and treatment required, are crucial in addressing each case with the help of medical professionals.
What are the 4 Types of Female Cancers?
Female cancers, also known as gynecologic cancers, are types of cancer that begin anywhere in a woman’s reproductive organs. The main types of cancer affect a woman’s reproductive organs are cervical, ovarian, uterine, vaginal, and vulvar. The different gynecologic cancers begin in different places within a woman’s pelvis, which is the area below the stomach and in between the hip bones. Different prevention strategies and treatments are required for each unique case of gynecologic cancer, but early diagnosis and medical attention is always a major factor in successful treatment. Below are key characteristics for the four types of female cancers:
Cervical cancer begins in the cervix, which is the part of the reproductive system that connects the vagina to the upper part of the uterus. While all women have a risk of contracting this form of cancer, it occurs most often in women over 30. Contracting and experiencing a prolonged infection of the sexually transmitted disease human papillomavirus (HPV) may also amplify the risk of contracting cervical cancer. While there is no official vaccine against this form of cancer, receiving the HPV vaccine may greatly reduce the likelihood of acquiring the virus that causes it.
Ovarian cancer is a classification of gynecological cancers that originate in the ovaries, or in the related areas of the fallopian tubes and the peritoneum. When abnormal growth occurs on either side of the fallopian tubes or the ovaries, the patient may begin experiencing signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer.
Uterine cancer is a classification of cancer that begins in the uterus, the pear-shaped organ in a woman’s pelvis where the baby grows when a woman is pregnant. While all women have a risk of developing uterine cancer as long as they have a uterus, the older a patient is, the higher her risk profile for developing uterine cancer. Most cases of uterine cancer are found in women who have entered menopause.
- Vaginal & Vulvar Cancer
Vaginal cancer originates in the birth canal connecting the bottom of the uterus to the outside of the body, while vulvar cancer forms in the outer part of the female genital organs. Of the main types of female cancers, vaginal and vulvar cancers are rarest. While all women are at risk for these cancers, statistics indicate that very few will get them.
What is Cervical Cancer?
Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that occurs in the cells of the cervix — the lower part of the uterus that connects to the vagina. Affecting the deeper tissues of the cervix and potentially spreading, or metastasizing, to other parts of the body, this disease tends to grow slowly. This means that the earlier a cervical tumor is located and traced, the better a patient’s chances of recovery are.
Identifying the kind of cervical cancer a patient has is crucial to addressing their case effectively. Below are its most common types :
- Squamous cell carcinomas
Squamous cell carcinomas account for a majority of cervical cancer cases, comprising up to nine out of 10 cases. These cancers develop from cancerous cells forming in the exocervix. Squamous cell carcinomas most often begin where the exocervix joins the endocervix.
Adenocarcinomas are the second-most common type of cancer of the cervix. Developing from glandular cells, adenocarcinomas begin in the mucus-producing gland cells of the endocervix.
- Adenosquamous carcinomas or mixed carcinomas
Accounting for a marginal minority of cervical cancer cases, adenosquamous carcinomas or mixed carcinomas have characteristics of both squamous cell carcinomas and adenocarcinomas.
Women between the ages of 35 and 44 are at the highest risk of getting cancer of the cervix, but there are a number of contributing factors that affect a patient’s risk level. Our doctors are well trained and highly qualified to assist you in discovering the best steps when it comes to screening or treating it.
What are the Causes of Cervical Cancer?
HPV remains the main cause of cancer of the cervix. However, HPV is very common, and most people who have contracted the virus never develop cervical cancer. There are other determinants that affect a patient’s likelihood of developing it. Below are some common risk factors:
- Early sexual activity (before the age of 16 or within a year of starting your period)
- Multiple sexual partners
- Taking birth control pills, especially if the patient has been taking them for longer than five years
- Cigarette smoking
- Having a sexually transmitted disease
- Having a weakened immune system
If you are concerned about your risk level for developing cancer of the cervix, or are interested in a preemptive screening, please see our FAQs to learn more.
What are the Early Warning Signs and Symptoms of Cervical Cancer?
- In its early stages, cervical cancer often produces little to no signs or symptoms. In the absence of early signs of cervical cancer, it is crucial to maintain a regular screening schedule to remain on the safe side. However, some more advanced cervical cancer symptoms may include:
- Vaginal bleeding after sexual activity, between periods, or after menopause
- Unusual vaginal discharge that may be heavy, bloody, or have a foul odor
- Pelvic pain during intercourse
- Trouble urinating
- Pain in or swelling of the legs
- Weight loss and lack of appetite
- Chronic fatigue
- Kidney failure
While the symptoms above may be difficult to miss, it is crucial to remember that many of them do not manifest until after the cancer has spread. For earlier intervention, please feel free to contact us.
How Common is Cervical Cancer in the Philippines?
The Department of Health has identified cervical cancer as the second-leading cancer site among women. Approximately 7,200 new cases and 3,800 deaths caused by cervical cancer are expected to occur every year in the country.
Cervical cancer, while difficult to confront, can be manageable with the right approach. With early intervention, diagnosis, and treatment, many patients are able to survive and recover from it. Take the first step in securing your health and learn how EVA works today.