Understanding Cervical Cancer: Unraveling the Causes, Symptoms, and Risk Factors

Cervical Cancer: An Overview of Symptoms

Cervical cancer, a potentially silent threat, often exhibits symptoms that may go unnoticed. Recognizing these signs is crucial for early detection and effective management.

Common indicators include abnormal vaginal bleeding, changes in vaginal discharge, discomfort during sex, and unexplained pain in the lower back or pelvis.


Understanding the Main Culprit: HPV and Cervical Cancer

The primary cause of cervical cancer lies in the human papillomavirus (HPV), particularly the high-risk strains.

Although HPV is prevalent and often clears on its own, it can lead to cervical cell changes, eventually progressing to cancer. The development of cervical cancer from HPV infection is a slow process, typically spanning between five and 20 years.


Additional Risk Factors and Contributing Elements

Beyond HPV, several risk factors contribute to the development of cervical cancer. Smoking, a weakened immune system, oral contraceptive pill usage, and exposure to diethylstilbestrol (DES) during pregnancy are identified as potential risk factors.

Currently, the lifetime risk of developing cervical cancer in the UK is less than 1 in 100 for women.


Positive Trends: Decline in Cervical Cancer Incidence and Mortality

Encouragingly, cervical cancer deaths in the UK have seen a significant reduction of 75% between 1971/73 and 2017/19, considering the changing age demographics.

Incidence rates have also experienced a decline of 25% since the early 1990s, with the highest incidence observed in females aged 30 to 34. Notably, 51% of cervical cancer patients survive for ten or more years.


Screening and Early Detection: Key to Cervical Cancer Prevention

Cervical screening plays a pivotal role in early detection, particularly through the examination of high-risk HPV in samples. If HPV is detected, further evaluation is conducted for cell changes.

Women with no cell changes may return for regular screening, while those with high-risk HPV and cell changes are invited for a colposcopy—a detailed examination of the cervix using a microscope.


Continued Progress: A Look into Cervical Cancer Statistics

Research indicates that the introduction of the HPV vaccine and regular cervical screening significantly reduces the lifetime risk of cervical cancer.

In the UK, the incidence rates are highest in females aged 30 to 34, while deaths are most common among those aged over 90. The continuous progress in understanding and addressing cervical cancer underscores the importance of awareness and preventive measures.

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