Like any other type of cancer, catching cervical cancer early allows for more treatment options. While some cancers have some early warning signs that can be noticed, others do not. It is difficult to catch early signs of cervical cancer, which is why experts advise undergoing regular screening to identify precancerous cervical cells before they multiply.
Hong Kong cervical cancer screening can help detect cervical cancer before it advances or catch precancerous cells that are likely to develop into cancer cells eventually. Many experts suggest beginning cervical cancer screening tests at the age of 21years.
Cervical cancer screening tests
- A Pap test is one of the readily available ways to test for cervical cancer. The doctor scrapes off some cells from your cervix during a pap test, and then they are examined in a laboratory for any abnormalities. The best thing about a pap test is that it can detect abnormal cells in the cervix, such as cancer cells and cells likely to develop into cancer someday.
- HPV DNA test involves testing the cells collected from the cervix for an HPV infection. HPV is the human papillomavirus, which is sexually transmitted and closely linked with cervical cancer development.
Diagnosis of cervical cancer
If a doctor suspects cervical cancer during a Hong Kong cervical cancer screening test, they are also likely to conduct a thorough examination of your cervix. They use a colposcope, a magnifying instrument for checking abnormal cells in the cervix. During the test, the doctor obtains a sample of your cervix cells in a process known as biopsy for further lab testing.
During a biopsy, your doctor may use different methods to obtain the tissues:
- Endocervical curettage involves using a small spoon-shaped tool known as a curet to scrape a tissue sample of the cervix.
- Punch biopsy involves using a sharp instrument to pinch some small tissues from the cervix.
- An electrical wire loop uses a thin low voltage electrified wire to get a tissue sample from the cervix. However, it must be done under local anesthesia.
- Conization allows the doctor to get deeper layers of the cervix tissues for lab testing. It is also conducted under local anesthesia.
The process that follows after diagnosis of cervical cancer is staging. Here the doctor performs further tests to determine the stage of cervical cancer to select the best treatment method. The staging process may involve imaging tests such as CT, MRI, X-ray, and PET (positron emission tomography) to assess if cancer has spread beyond the cervix.
Staging may also involve a visual examination of your bladder and rectum. The doctor utilizes a special instrument to view inside your cervix and see the extent of the cancerous cells.
Treatment of cervical cancer
There are different treatment options for cervical cancer depending on the type, stage, age, and general health. They include surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.
Surgery is used to treat early-stage cervical cancer. There are also different types of surgical operations to remove cancerous cells depending on the tumor, its stage, and whether or not you would like to become pregnant in the future. Your options include:
- Surgery to remove the cancer only, which is viable for small tumors. It leaves the rest of the cervix intact and also makes it possible to become pregnant in the future.
- Surgery to remove the cervix and some surrounding tissues. The uterus remains intact, so it is possible to become pregnant in the future.
- Surgery to remove the cervix and the uterus. This is a viable treatment option to cure early-stage cervical cancer and prevent reoccurrence. It removes the cervix, uterus, some part of the vagina, and the surrounding lymph nodes. The uterus removal makes it impossible to become pregnant in the future.
Radiation therapy involves using high-powered energy beams like protons or X-rays to kill the cancer cells. In most cases, radiation is used with chemotherapy to treat locally advanced cervical cancer. Radiation can also come in after surgery to remove the tumor, especially if the cancer is more likely to develop again.
Radiation therapy can be done externally by focusing the beam at the affected part of the body or internally by placing the device filled with radioactive material inside the vagina for some minutes. In other cases, you may need both internal and external radiation therapy.
It is also important to note that radiation therapy can cause menopause. Therefore, you should discuss your treatment options with your doctor if you would like to become pregnant in the future.
Chemotherapy uses drug treatment to kill cancerous cells, and it comes in pill form or is given through a vein. In the case of locally advanced cervical cancer, low doses of chemotherapy can be combined with radiation to treat it, and that is because chemotherapy enhances the effectiveness of radiation. In advanced cases of cervical cancer, higher doses of chemotherapy are used to treat the symptoms.
Immunotherapy refers to a drug treatment that boosts your immune system to help it fight cancer. Your body’s immune system might not be able to fight off the cancer cells. That is because cancer cells produce a protein that makes them undetectable by the immune system cells, and Immunotherapy interferes with that process. Immunotherapy comes in handy when cervical cancer is advanced, and other treatment methods are not working.
Targeted therapy focuses on specific deficiencies within the cancer cells. It blocks the deficiencies causing the cancer cells to die. In most cases, targeted therapy is used with chemotherapy to treat advanced cervical cancer.
Palliative care or supportive care is specialized care that provides relief from the serious symptoms of cervical cancer. Palliative care experts work with you as a patient, your family, and other healthcare providers to provide the needed support that complements your regular cancer treatment. Hong Kong cancer fund experts suggest that palliative care improves the quality of life of people with cancer enabling them to live longer.
No one anticipates a cancer diagnosis, but learning more about cervical cancer can help you discover how to cope.