What to expect when you receive a diagnosis for cervical cancer. The difficulties and challenges that come along with cervical cancer specifically are detailed. Different cancer types and the experiences that come with are compared.
Cancer is named from the origin in which cancer cells start to grow. Therefore, cervical cancer originates in the cervix, which connects the vagina to the uterus. There are several types of cervical cancer but the most common are squamous cell carcinomas. This makes up about 90% of cervical cancer cases. Another kind is adenocarcinomas. These develop in the gland cells of the endocervix. Although not as common as squamous cell carcinomas, it has become more popular in the past few decades. The last type of cervical cancer is when both types of cancerous cells are found within the cervix and is called adenosquamous carcinomas. This occurs only in rare cases and not nearly as common as the first two types listed. In other rare cases, common cancer types that develop elsewhere can sometimes develop within the cervix. These cancer types include sarcoma, lymphoma, and melanoma. Most of the time, this is not a fatal type of cancer. Of course, the sooner you discover the spread of cancerous cells, the easier it is to maintain it.
Doctors haven’t discovered any direct causes to cervical cancer. However, there are certain conditions and activities that are more prone to the disease. One risk factor for cervical cancer is HPV and smoking. Most women with HPV do not develop cervical cancer but smoking increases the risk considerably. There are a few ways to detect cervical cancer in its early stages. The Pap test and HPV test are used to directly detect cancerous cells in the cervix, so having these tests regularly can help detect it before it becomes invasive. Pre-cancers are important to detect in order to maintain the spreading of cells while the cancer is still in its early stages. The more the cancer spreads, the more detrimental it can be to a patient’s wellbeing. So, early detection is the best chance you have of minimizing the damage the cancer can do to your body. Fortunately, some of the tests conducted to detect these cancer cells are tests that most women should already be regularly receiving.
It is difficult to detect cervical cancer because symptoms don’t show until the cells spread beyond the cervix. Some of those symptoms include discharge, pain during sex, bleeding, and spotting. Once symptoms are detected, in order to know you have cervical cancer for sure you have several options. Doctors can do a biopsy of the cervix, a CT scan, or even x-rays to see if the cells have spread throughout the body. Usually with cervical cancer, the cells spread to the lungs first. It’s important for you as a patient to know what stage of cervical cancer you have.
Stages range from zero to four and the higher the number the further the cancerous cells have spread. In stage zero, only abnormal cells are found on the surface of the cervix. In stage 1, cancerous cells are only found in the cervix. There are sub-stages for each number that are directly based on the size and deepness of the cancer. In the second stage of cervical cancer, the cells have spread further than the uterus, but not past the pelvic wall, or lower than the bottom third of the vagina. In the third stage, the cancerous cells have spread beyond the pelvic wall or the lower third of the vagina. During this stage it is also common for the cancer to have spread to the kidney. Stage four, the most invasive stage, means the cancer has spread and can be seen within the bladder or rectum, which are beyond the pelvis (If You Have Cervical Cancer, 2016). The further the cancer has spread throughout a patient’s body, the harder it will be to remove. Different methods are used for the severity of cancer cells. The method used and the amount of cancer cells directly reflect the recovery and difficulty of the procedure. For 2019, it is predicted that there will be over 13,000 new cases of cervical cancer. Of those 13,000, about 4,200 women will die, which means the mortality rate is around 30%. This is much lower when compared to other types of cancer. Especially when considering in the past, cervical cancer was a very common cause of cancer death for women in America (Key Statistics for Cervical Cancer, 2019).
The most common treatment for cervical cancer is surgery to remove the cells. There are several different surgeries and methods used to remove the cancerous cells. For stage zero patients, cryosurgery can be used to freeze the cells. Or, stage zero patients can use laser surgery to burn off the abnormal cells. After stage zero when the cancer has spread further within the cervix there are only a few options. A cone biopsy can be performed to take out a small piece of the cervix. The most common treatment for cervical cancer is a Hysterectomy. This operation removes the cervix and uterus. Sometimes if the cancer has spread further, doctors can take our neighboring lymph nodes or even fallopian tubes and ovaries. After surgery, if cancer cells remain within the affected region, patients can opt for radiation. This will use high-energy rays to kill the remaining cancer cells. Luckily, the number of cases of cervical cancer cases in the United States and the death toll had decreased in the past forty years (Cervical Cancer Treatment, 2019).
Another option for treatment can be participation in clinical trials. They provide new methods or drugs for treatment that is unavailable to the general public. Companies like us, Massive Bio, provide the ability for you to connect with a clinical trial that is right for you and your disease. For example, certain clinical trials are meant specifically for cervical cancer patients with innovative techniques for treatment. As modern medicine develops, new treatments are gradually released to the public. However, the first opportunity to get these innovative forms of medicine is through the clinical trials. If these trials are successful, they can be eventually be approved by the FDA. To summarize, there is no guaranteed treatment, but current surgeries help rid of some of the cancer cells and clinical trials can provide new opportunities for patients to test new treatment options.
Dealing with cancer on a personal level can be difficult as well. It is important to create a network of caring and support that you can turn to during your journey through cancer. Communicating with others who also have cervical cancer would be beneficial. It can be comforting for patients to communicate with others who have experience in dealing with your disease. Sometimes, getting support like this can be just as important to your mental health as treatment is for your physical health. Getting the news of having cancer is always devastating but being optimistic about your future can help you along the way. Reaching your goal of being deemed a cancer survivor will be enough to motivate you each day through treatment to get better. Not just for yourself, but those around you that are inspired with your strength and perseverance. It is important to be knowledgeable about the disease you have been diagnosed with. The more you understand and know what to expect, the less surprised you are when challenges arise throughout your journey.