What all women need to know about cervical cancer

What is cervical cancer?

Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that starts in the cells lining the cervix, which is the lower part of the uterus or the womb. The fetus grows in the upper part of the uterus and the cervix connects the upper part with the birth canal.

The cervix has two different parts which means two different kinds of cells. The part of the cervix closest to the uterus is called the endocervix and is covered with glandualar cells. The part of the cervix closest to the birth canal is called the ectocervix and is covered in squamous cells. These two cells meet at a location called the transformation zone, which changes over time and if you have given birth.

Most cervical cancers begin in the transformation zone. The cells don’t instantly become cancerous but start developing pre-cancerous changes, also called pre-cancers, and eventually turn into cancer. These changes can be detected and treated by the Pap test. Only some women with pre-cancers develop cancer. Many times it takes years for pre-cancers to become cancer, but in some cases, it takes less than a year. In a lot of women, pre-cancers will go away without any treatment

There are three different type of cervical cancers:

Squamous cell carcinomas account for up to 9 out of 10 cervical cancers. These cancers develop from cells of the ectocervix. Squamous cell carcinomas often begin in the transformation zone.

Adenocarcinomas are cancers that develop from gland cells. Cervical adenocarcinoma develops from the mucus-producing gland cells of the endocervix. This cervical cancer has become more common in the past 20-30 years.

The least common cervical cancer is adenosquamous carcinoma or mixed carcinoma. This cancer has features of both of the other two cancers.

Statistics

The American Cancer Society estimates for cervical cancer cases in the United States for 2017 are:

  • About 12,820 new cases of invasive cervical cancer will be diagnosed.
  • About 4,210 women will die from cervical cancer

Cervical cancer was once one of the most common causes of cancer death for American women. Over the last 40 years, the death rate has gone down by more than 50%. This is due to the increased use of the Pap test. Most cases are found in women under the age of 50 and rarely develop in women under the age of 20. About 20% of cases are found in women older than 65.

Prevention

Visiting the doctor regularly and having annual tests is the best way to prevent cervical cancer. Also, maintaining a healthy diet and exercise plan is good for your health in every aspect. Refraining from smoking, alcohol or drug abuse and irregular sexual activity is a good way to prevent cervical cancer and any other health-related disease.

Information courtesy of cancer.org

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