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Theme Cervical Cancer & Pap Smear : The Saving Grace

● Overview
This cancer can often be found early, and sometimes even prevented entirely, by having regular Pap tests. It is very important for to note, if detected early, cervical cancer is one of the most successfully treatable cancers.
● What’s is cancer ?
Cancer starts when cells in the body begin to grow out of control.Cells in nearly any part of the body can become cancer, and can spread to other areas of the body.
● What Is Cervical Cancer?
Cervical cancer starts in the cells lining the cervix (the cervix is the lower part of the uterus (womb). This is sometimes called the uterine cervix.The fetus (baby) grows in the body of the uterus (the upper part).
The cervix connects the body of the uterus to the vagina (birth canal) as is depicted in the picture. The part of the cervix closest to the body of the uterus is called the endocervix. The part next to the vagina is the exocervix (or ectocervix).
There are 2 main types of cells covering the cervix. These 2 cell types meet at a place called the transformation zone. The exact location of the transformation zone changes as you age and if you give birth.
Most cervical cancers begin in the cells in the so called transformation zone.These cells do not suddenly change into cancer. Instead, the normal cells of the cervix first gradually develop pre-cancerous changes that turn into cancer later.
Normally, doctors use several terms to describe these pre-cancerous changes, including cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN),squamous intraepithelial lesion (SIL), and dysplasia.
These changes are the basis for the pap smear test.These changes can be detected early by routine Pap test and treated to prevent cancer from developing.
● Historical Background
Cervical cancer used to be a very deadly scourge. It was once one of the most common causes of cancer death for American women.
But over the last 30 years, the cervical cancer death rate has gone down by more than 50%. The main reason for this change was the increased use of the Pap test.
This screening procedure can find changes in the cervix before cancer develops. It can also find cervical cancer early in its most curable stage. Normally, cervical cancer tends to occur in midlife. Most cases are found in women younger than 50.It rarely develops in women younger than 20, but can develop.
Many older women do not realize that the risk of developing cervical cancer is still present as they age.
More than 15% of cases of cervical cancer are found in women over 65. So, it is still a huge significant concern at this age.However these cancers rarely occur in women who have been getting regular tests to screen for cervical cancer before they were 65.
● Signs and symptoms of cervical cancer
Most women with early cervical cancers and pre-cancers usually have no symptoms. Symptoms often do not begin until a pre-cancer becomes a true invasive cancer and grows into nearby tissue. When this happens, the most common symptoms are:


● What’s is cancer ?
Cancer starts when cells in the body begin to grow out of control.Cells in nearly any part of the body can become cancer, and can spread to other areas of the body.
● What Is Cervical Cancer?
Cervical cancer starts in the cells lining the cervix (the cervix is the lower part of the uterus (womb). This is sometimes called the uterine cervix.The fetus (baby) grows in the body of the uterus (the upper part).
The cervix connects the body of the uterus to the vagina (birth canal) as is depicted in the picture. The part of the cervix closest to the body of the uterus is called the endocervix. The part next to the vagina is the exocervix (or ectocervix).
There are 2 main types of cells covering the cervix. These 2 cell types meet at a place called the transformation zone. The exact location of the transformation zone changes as you age and if you give birth.
Most cervical cancers begin in the cells in the so called transformation zone.These cells do not suddenly change into cancer. Instead, the normal cells of the cervix first gradually develop pre-cancerous changes that turn into cancer later.
Normally, doctors use several terms to describe these pre-cancerous changes, including cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN),squamous intraepithelial lesion (SIL), and dysplasia.
These changes are the basis for the pap smear test.These changes can be detected early by routine Pap test and treated to prevent cancer from developing.
● Historical Background
Cervical cancer used to be a very deadly scourge. It was once one of the most common causes of cancer death for American women.
But over the last 30 years, the cervical cancer death rate has gone down by more than 50%. The main reason for this change was the increased use of the Pap test.
This screening procedure can find changes in the cervix before cancer develops. It can also find cervical cancer early in its most curable stage. Normally, cervical cancer tends to occur in midlife. Most cases are found in women younger than 50.It rarely develops in women younger than 20, but can develop.
Many older women do not realize that the risk of developing cervical cancer is still present as they age.
More than 15% of cases of cervical cancer are found in women over 65. So, it is still a huge significant concern at this age.However these cancers rarely occur in women who have been getting regular tests to screen for cervical cancer before they were 65.
● Signs and symptoms of cervical cancer
Most women with early cervical cancers and pre-cancers usually have no symptoms. Symptoms often do not begin until a pre-cancer becomes a true invasive cancer and grows into nearby tissue. When this happens, the most common symptoms are:

  1. Abnormal vaginal bleeding, such as bleeding after sex (vaginal intercourse), bleeding after menopause, bleeding and spotting between periods, and having longer or heavier (menstrual) periods than usual. Bleeding after douching, or after a pelvic exam is a common symptom of cervical cancer but not pre-cancer.
  2. An unusual discharge from the vagina − the discharge may contain some blood and may occur between your periods or after menopause.
  3. Pain during sex (vaginal intercourse).
    PLEASE NOTE!
    These signs and symptoms can also be caused by conditions other than cervical cancer. For example, an infection can cause pain or bleeding. Still, if you have any of these problems, you should see your health care professional right away − even if you have been getting regular Pap tests.
    If it is an infection, it will need to be treated. If it’s cancer, ignoring symptoms might allow it to progress to a more advanced stage and lower your chance for effective treatment.Even better, don’t wait for symptoms to appear. Be screened regularly.
    References & Citation
    ● American Cancer Society

By Dr. Chudi Ufondu, MBBS,MPH, CPH

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