A study with nearly 1.7 million participants showed that girls who received the HPV vaccine prior to their 17th birthday were 90 percent less likely to suffer cervical cancer. Similar studies have shown a single HPV vaccine dose is highly effective in preventing the two primary HPV infections most often responsible for causing cervical cancer.
The HPV vaccine was released in 2006, meaning many people grew up before it became commonly administered. There are also societal and cultural reasons why some families choose to forego the vaccine. Although the risk is reduced, even vaccinated women can still develop cervical cancer after receiving the vaccine.
At Community Cancer Center, our physicians provide thorough cancer screenings and will support you through a diagnosis with compassionate care and cutting-edge treatment technology.
Causes of Cervical Cancer
A human papillomavirus (HPV) infection is one of the leading causes of cervical cancer. It is typically transmitted during sex and attaches to the cells lining the cervix. For most women, HPV infections tend to disappear on their own; however, in some cases, the infection can linger and develop into cervical cancer that can only be detected through a screening.
Other factors that can contribute to cervical cancer include smoking and prolonged use of oral contraceptives for more than five years. Giving birth to three or more children can also elevate your risk due to the extensive hormonal changes your body undergoes while pregnant.
Types of Cervical Cancer
Up to 90 percent of cervical cancer cases are squamous cell carcinomas. It’s derived from an HPV infection, developing in the squamous epithelial cells that line the cervix’s surface. It’s also easily detectable through a Pap smear.
Adenocarcinoma is the second most common form of cervical cancer, although the gap between it and squamous cell carcinoma is substantial. It forms in the glandular cells of the cervix that are responsible for mucus production. Although adenocarcinoma is also linked to HPV, it’s not always likely to show up on a Pap smear, which can make early detection difficult.
Symptoms of Cervical Cancer
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding
- Persistent or intermittent pelvic pain
- Pain or discomfort during intercourse
- Painful urination
- Sudden, unexplained weight loss
Diagnostic Tests Used in a Cervical Cancer Screening
Pap Smear (Pap Test): A Pap smear involves collecting cells from the cervix to check for abnormalities and is vital for early detection.
Colposcopy: A colposcopy is performed after an abnormal Pap smear to give your physician a closer examination of the cervix using a special magnifying instrument.
Biopsy and Imaging Tests: If the colposcopy shows signs of an abnormality, a biopsy is conducted on a small tissue sample to confirm the presence of cancer cells. If confirmed, advanced imaging techniques like MRI, CT scans or PET scans can help determine the stage and extent of cancer.
Cervical Cancer Treatment Options
Surgery can greatly increase your chances of eliminating cervical cancer from your body, especially if the tumor is removed during the initial stages. In the early stages, most surgeons utilize conization (Cone Biopsy) to remove the cone-shaped piece of the cervix that contains the abnormal cells while still preserving the woman’s fertility. For more advanced cases, a radical hysterectomy is performed, which involves the removal of the cervix, uterus and nearby tissues.
In either procedure, the patient’s pelvic lymph nodes may also be removed to check the cancer’s progression.
Whether used separately or in combination with surgery, radiation therapy uses high-energy X-rays or other types of radiation to target and destroy cancer cells. External beam radiation targets the tumor from outside the body, while brachytherapy places a radioactive source directly into or near the tumor. This procedure is mostly used for those in the advanced cancer stages.
Chemotherapy involves administering drugs intravenously or orally to kill or slow the growth of cancer cells. It’s typically administered before or after surgery, with radiation therapy or in combination with both.
HPV Vaccine and Cervical Cancer
The HPV vaccine can protect patients against the most common and high-risk strains of HPV that are responsible for cervical cancer. The vaccine is most effective when administered between nine and 27 years old. Although you can receive a dose later on, it’s notably less effective. You can also reduce your risk of HPV infection by practicing safe sex and using condoms.
Get Effective Cervical Cancer Screenings and Personalized Treatment in Roseburg, OR
In the challenging event of a cancer diagnosis, our team will be right beside you. At the Community Cancer Center, our oncologists will give you the dedicated care you deserve and increase your chances of securing a better treatment outcome. We’ll also help you adjust to a sudden and overwhelming diagnosis with a host of financial and emotional resources.
Learn more about how we can help by calling (541) 673-2267 or by exploring our cervical cancer resources page.