Professor Ami Fishman provides helpful information for Nigerian women about cervical cancer prevention and treatment. "...many cases of cervical cancer go undiagnosed or undiscovered until later stages..."
What is Cervical Cancer?
Cervical Cancer develops in the tissue of the cervix. Cervical Cancer is among the most common cancer-types among women and in many regions, ranked only behind breast cancer and the identified cause of death for more people each year than that of HIV/AIDS in many regions. Cervical Cancer has a strong link to development being due to transmission and development of HPV (human-papilloma virus) by sexual contact.
A recent report of the Pan-African Medical Journal on the topic of cervical cancer risk underscored the importance of early detection and treatment for cervical cancer to significantly prevent, manage, and halt development of cancerous tissue and stop its spreading.
In Nigeria, cervical cancer rates are particularly high and linked to the burden of disease stemming from high rates of HPV infection in Nigeria among women between ages 15 to 44 (Information Centre on HPV and Cancer, 2014).
Adherence to screening recommendations for the Pap test (every 3 years for women between age 21 and 65) is fundamental to cancer detection. This is particularly important as many cases of cervical cancer go undiagnosed or undiscovered until later stages of development. Any delay in treatment puts the patient at increased risk and threatens surrounding tissue that is vulnerable to the spread of cancerous cells.
Cervical Cancer Symptoms
In early stages of cervical cancer development, symptoms may be nearly impossible to determine or to detect (asymptomatic). Over time, symptoms that do appear for many patients may consist of the following:
Loss of weight
Pain and/or discomfort in pelvic regions
Pain during intercourse
If one or more of these symptoms are identified, medical professionals recommend women go for an exam from their physician or gynecologist for the primary purpose of prevention and for the opportunity to begin treatment if screening reveals it is necessary.
Cervical Cancer Diagnosis
It is important to get familiar with current screening methods and recommendations is the first and most important step. The Pap (Papanicolaou) test, is a simple technique of analyzing tissue cells of the cervix. The Pap test is understood to be a powerful force against cervical cancer development and for detection of pre-cancerous symptoms.
Supplementary screening methods are usually directed by results of the Pap test. These next steps include the following:
DNA testing -often performed to diagnose HPV; performed in order to identify abnormalities that have been determined from the Pap test.
Colposcopy –gynecologist examination of the vagina and cervix is performed using an optical device. If additional samples of tissue cells become necessary for analysis, the procedure may include biopsy.
Cervical Conization- a cone-shaped sample of cervix mucosa tissue is extracted for analysis.
In order to attain a precise diagnosis, MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), or PET (positron emission tomography) may also accompany screening and examination.
Due to recent advancements in modern medicine and cancer research, options for cervical cancer treatments yield positive results for patients, vastly improving health status and greater quality of life.
Cervical Cancer Treatment
Medical professionals continue to highlight the benefits of early detection and the advantages of beginning treatment as early as possible to prevent and halt the development of cancer. Among modern cervical cancer treatments are the following:
Radiotherapy – internal radiotherapy (brachytherapy) treatment is facilitated to target and destroy cancer cells
Chemotherapy – treatment often combined with radiotherapy through the use of drugs combined to counteract growth of malignant cancer cells.
For cases in which the cancer is indeed detected early-on, a Hysterectomy, (complete or partial removal of the uterus) may be performed to prevent disease reoccurrence.
Modern treatment options for cervical cancer are less invasive and least taxing on the body than ever before thanks to development and innovations in cervical cancer research. Most methods offered to patients today require only a short recovery time and maintain positive prognosis.
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