collaborative post | Cervical cancer is a painful condition. In 2020, 209 people died due to cervical cancer in Australia. Not to mention, 900 cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed in Australia annually.
However, the Australian government is taking efforts to improve its screening test program to identify the disease in its initial phase to help people get treated. Read further to learn more about this disease.
Signs and Symptoms of Cervical Cancer
Cervical cancer is where abnormal cells in the cervix, the lower part of the uterus, grow uncontrollably. It’s important to be aware of the signs and symptoms associated with cervical cancer.
However, it’s worth noting that early precancerous changes in cervical cells usually don’t cause any noticeable symptoms. A regular cervical screening test is the most effective way to detect these abnormalities and potential cancer development.
If precancerous changes progress to cervical cancer, some common signs and symptoms may include:
- Vaginal bleeding after menopause
- Vaginal bleeding between periods
- Bleeding after intercourse
- Menstrual bleeding that is longer or heavier than usual
- Pain during intercourse
- Pelvic pain
- Changes in vaginal discharge, such as increased discharge or an unusual colour or odour
Causes of Cervical Cancer
The uncontrolled division and growth of abnormal cells primarily cause cervical cancer. Normally, our body’s cells have a limited lifespan, dying and being replaced by new cells. However, abnormal cervical cells may encounter two problems: they don’t die as they should and continue to divide excessively.
This leads to the formation of a lump or tumour. While scientists are not completely certain why cells become cancerous, certain risk factors that increase the likelihood of developing cervical cancer have been identified.
These risk factors include:
- Human papillomavirus (HPV): HPV is a sexually transmitted virus, and certain types of HPV are associated with cervical cancer. More than 100 types of HPV exist, with at least 13 considered high-risk for cervical cancer.
- Multiple sexual partners or early sexual activity: Engaging in sexual activity with individuals who have HPV increases the risk of infection, which, in turn, raises the risk of developing cervical cancer. Women with multiple sexual partners are more likely to contract HPV.
- Smoking: Smoking is linked not only to cervical cancer but also to other types of cancer.
- Weakened immune system: Individuals with HIV/AIDS, those who have undergone organ transplants and take immunosuppressive medications, have a higher risk of cervical cancer.
- Long-term use of certain birth control pills: Prolonged use of specific contraceptive pills slightly increases the risk of cervical cancer.
- Other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs): Infections such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis can elevate the risk of developing cervical cancer.
- Socio-economic status: Cervical cancer rates appear higher in areas with lower income levels.
Cervical Cancer Screening
Cervical cancer is a highly preventable disease; early detection combined with appropriate treatment can greatly improve survival rates. In Australia, the National Cervical Screening Program, which was introduced in 1991, has played a significant role in reducing the incidence and mortality rates of cervical cancer.
These programs benefit all women but are particularly crucial for those who have not received the HPV vaccine. Regardless of vaccination status, women between the ages of 25 and 74 need to undergo regular cervical screening tests.
The new cervical screening test has replaced the traditional Pap test. Unlike the Pap test, which focused on detecting abnormal cells, the new test now also looks for HPV, responsible for nearly all cervical cancers.
It is advised that you wait two years after your most recent Pap test if you’ve had a test before having your first HPV cervical screening test. You will only require screening every five years after your initial HPV cervical screening test, thanks to the enhanced testing methodology.
Since you know the causes and symptoms of cervical cancer, you can look for signs to get the treatment in the initial phase. And if you notice any symptoms, consult an expert as soon as possible to resolve your concern.