Cancer, the dreaded C-word, is a healthcare concern across the world cutting across barriers. But when it comes to cervical cancer, India has more reasons to be concerned about it. One-third of the world’s cervical cancers are reported in India. In fact, in developing countries such as India, cervical cancer is a public health problem in contrast to developed countries. It’s estimated that 1 in 53 women in India is likely to be affected by cervical cancer during their lifetime. In developed regions of the world, this is 1 in 100 women.
Like in any other diseases, early detection is critical to curbing the menace of cervical cancer. Let’s delve deeper into the screening, diagnosis, and treatment of cervical cancer.
Screening tests can not only help detect cervical cancer but also identify cells analyzing their growth pattern or their tendency to grow abnormally which can potentially become cancerous. The most widely used tests to detect cervical cancer are:
Pap test: A Pap test analyses your cells from the cervix and helps detecting cancer cells as well as cells that show signs of change, a sign of the increased risk of cervical cancer.
HPV DNA test: The collected cells from the cervix are tested for infection with any of the types of HPV that are most likely to lead to cervical cancer.
If any abnormalities are found in the screening and cervical cancer is suspected, the doctor will go for a detailed examination of the cervix. A special magnifying instrument called a colposcope is used to check for the presence of abnormal cells in the cervix. For the colposcopic examination, collecting tissues is required. There are many ways to do it. Some of them are:
The other two procedures that are performed to obtain the cervical tissues require the person to be anaesthetized. They are:
Having performed these procedures, if the doctor found out that a person has cervical cancer, the next step is to determine at what stage the disease is. It requires both imaging tests as well as visual examination.
Imaging tests include X-ray, CT, MRI, and Positron Emission Tomography (PET).
Visual examination of bladder and rectum using special scopes.
Treatment is decided based on the stage i.e. whether the cancer is in a nascent stage or it has spread widely as well as any other health issues the person may be having.
Depending on the above-mentioned factors surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, or a combination of all three is suggested.
In cervical cancer, just like in any other type of cancer, early diagnosis and detection are important followed by proper treatment.