What is cervical cancer?
Cervical cancer is a disease in which healthy cells on the surface of the cervix change, grow out of control, and form a mass of cells called a tumour. At first, the changes in a cell are abnormal, not precancerous. Research shows these cells can become precancerous and may change into cancer over time. This phase of the disease is called dysplasia. If the precancerous cells change into cancer cells and spread deeper into the cervix or to other tissues and organs, the disease is called cervical cancer. The 2 main types of cervical cancer are squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma. Cervical cancers can often be prevented by having regular Pap tests to find and treat pre cancers early. Cervical cancer is the 3rd most common cancer in India.
What is the function of the cervix?
The cervix is the lower, narrow part of a woman’s uterus. The uterus holds the growing foetus during pregnancy. The cervix connects the uterus to the vagina and, with the vagina, forms the birth canal.
What does stage mean?
The stage is a way of describing where the cancer is located, if or where it has spread, and whether it is affecting other parts of the body. There are 4 stages for cervical cancer: stages l through lV (1 through 4).
How is cervical cancer treated?
The treatment of cervical cancer depends on the tumour, whether the cancer has spread, the woman’s overall health, and whether she plans to have children. Precancerous cells can be found and usually removed without harming healthy tissue. If the abnormal cells have become cancerous, the most common treatments are surgery, radiation therapy, and therapies using medication, such as chemotherapy, targeted therapy, and immunotherapy. Treatment for cervical cancer may use one type of treatment or a combination of these treatments, depending on several factors, including the cancer’s stage and possible side effects. Talk with your doctor about all available treatment options. Cervical cancer treatment can affect a woman’s sexual health and fertility (ability to become pregnant). Talk with your health care team about preventing or managing these and other side effects. This is called palliative care or supportive care and is an important part of the overall treatment plan.
Regular communication is important in making informed decisions about your health care. It can be helpful to bring someone along to your appointments to take notes and understand.
Consider asking your health care team the following questions:
1. What type of cervical cancer do I have?
2. Can you explain my pathology report (laboratory test results) to me?
3. What stage is the cervical cancer? What does this mean?
4. Would you explain my treatment options?
5. What treatment plan do you recommend? Why?`
6. What is the goal of each treatment? Is it to eliminate the cancer, help me feel better, or both?
7. Who will be part of my treatment team, and what does each member do?
8. How will this treatment affect my daily life? Will I be able to work, exercise, and perform my usual activities?
9. Will this treatment affect my ability to become pregnant or have children?
10. Could this treatment affect my sex life?
11. What long-term side effects may be associated with my cancer treatment?
12. If I’m worried about managing the costs of cancer care, who can help me?