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What is cervical cancer?

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The most common kind of cervical cancer, namely squamous cell carcinoma, occurs in the surface cells that line the cervix. While it is quite common for these cells to mutate, they usually remain harmless over long periods of time. These dysplasia, as they are called, don’t immediately turn into carcinomas (the cancer), however they may do if left untreated. About 80 to 90 percent of cervical cancers are squamous cell carcinomas.

The remaining percent are called adenocarcinoma, and develops in secretion glands. This particular type of cervical cancer is becoming more and more frequent in women born in the last 20 to 30 years.

What are the causes of cervical cancer?

  • Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection is the most common risk factor. It is essentially a sexually transmitted disease, of which there are over 100 variations. An infection can be detected by a Pap smear test performed by a gynaecologist.
  • Chlamydia – women who have tested positive in their lives for this sexually transmitted are proven to be more at risk of getting cervical cancer.
  • Genes – studies suggest that women whose female relatives have had cervical cancer are more like to get it
  • Smoking – studies suggest cervical cancer is more common among women who smoke

Women between the ages of 50 and 55 are most at risk of cervical cancer; however it can affect women of all ages (extremely rarely women under the age of 15).

The typical course of treatment if cervical cancer involves surgery to remove the malignant cells if the cancer is still in its early stages. If the cancer has progressed, it is treated additionally with chemotherapy and radiation. If the cancer is very advanced, a hysterectomy may be performed, in which the entire uterus (including the cervix and a part of the vagina) are removed.

Pap smears conducted at the gynaecologist’s office have greatly reduced the occurrences and mortality of cervical cancer in the developed world, as the test recognizes abnormal cells before they turn into cancer. While a vaccine for HPV has been introduced in the developed world, it only began circulation less than 10 years ago. Women who have not been vaccinated are encouraged, just as those who have been vaccinated are, to regularly seek cervical cancer screening.

The general prognosis of cervical cancer, while depending on what stage it is in, is quite positive. Those treated in its early stages have a 72 percent chance of surviving. It is the fifth most deadly cancer in women and will kill nine per 100,000 women worldwide per year.

Click here to find out more about cervical cancer.

Other celebrities who fell victim to cancer in 2009 include Patrick Swayze and Farrah Fawcett.


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