Categories: Cancer

Cervical Cancer: Diagnosis & Treatment

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:

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.

Diagnosis:

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:

  • Punch biopsy: Using a sharp tool, small tissues of cervical tissues are pinched off.
  • Endocervical curettage: As the name suggests, it uses a small curet that is a spoon-shaped instrument or a thin brush to scrape the tissue sample from the cervix.

The other two procedures that are performed to obtain the cervical tissues require the person to be anaesthetized. They are:

  • The electrical wire loop uses a thin, low-voltage electrified wire to collect the tissue sample.
  • Cone biopsy or conization: This procedure is about collecting deeper layers of cervical cells to be tested in a laboratory.

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:

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.

  1. Surgery: If it’s in the early stages, surgery is what is suggested by the doctors. Yet another criterion, the doctors consider is a person’s intention to become pregnant in the future. There are, chiefly, three types of surgeries:
  • Surgery that removes cancer only
  • Surgery that removes the cervix (trachelectomy)
  • Surgery to remove the cervix and uterus (hysterectomy)
  1. Radiation: Like surgery, there are three types of radiation therapy that are popularly considered in treating cervical cancer.
  • External beam radiation therapy: Focusing on the affected area.
  1. Brachytherapy: It’s called an internal method for the reason that it involves placing a device filled with radioactive material inside the vagina for a few minutes. In certain cases, both options are used.
  2. Chemotherapy: It’s a drug treatment that is used to kill cancer cells. It’s either injected into the vein or given as pills.

In cervical cancer, just like in any other type of cancer, early diagnosis and detection are important followed by proper treatment.

Dr. Rohit Raghunath Ranade, Consultant – Gynaecology – Oncology, Oncology, Robotic Surgery, Mazumdar Shaw Medical Center, Bommasandra

Narayana Health

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