Each year, approximately 12,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with cervical cancer, a type of cancer that occurs in the cells of the cervix in the lower part of the uterus. That may seem like a relatively low number, but cervical cancer used to be the most common cause of cancer deaths among American women until about 40 years ago, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a division of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS).
Thanks to broad awareness of the importance of getting an annual Pap test, and thanks to the test’s accuracy in detecting cervical cancer, incidence of this disease has been greatly reduced. And because this type of cancer is most often caused by a sexually transmitted infection – the human papillomavirus (HPV) – and can most often be prevented with the HPV vaccine, this cancer is expected to diminish even more over time as more people become vaccinated.
Normally, your body’s immune system prevents HPV from doing harm, but the virus can survive for years in some women and men. It can eventually cause cervical cells to become cancerous cells.
Symptoms of Cervical Cancer
Most women do not exhibit any signs or symptoms of a cervical pre-cancer. In fact, once symptoms do appear, the cancer is usually in an advanced stage – and those symptoms can include pelvic pain and unusual vaginal bleeding.
Females (and males) who are under the age of 27 are therefore strongly recommended to get the HPV vaccine. This will prevent females from getting cervical cancer, and it also prevents other HPV-derived cancers of the throat and the anal area for both genders. The reason for the age limit is that sexual activity with someone who has HPV renders the vaccine useless in the patient, and people tend to be sexually active by that age.
How Can I Be Tested for Cancer of the Cervix?
Your OB/GYN (obstetrician/gynecologist) will test you for cervical cancer by performing a Pap smear, which is recommended to be done for women every year. If a woman does have this cancer but it is caught early, the cancer can be removed and eliminated.
There are several tests your doctor or gynecologist can perform to detect and diagnose cervical cancer. These include:
- A Pap smear, in which cells from the surface of the cervix and vagina are collected and analyzed.
- An HPV test, which checks DNA and RNA for certain types of infection.
- Colposcopy, in which a lighted magnifying instrument is used to inspect the cervix and vagina for abnormalities. This is generally done if the Pap smear indicated abnormal cells.
- A biopsy of tissue extracted from the cervix.
Are There Any Treatment Options?
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with cervical cancer, there are a number of treatment options depending on the stage of the cancer. Surgery or hysterectomy (removal of the uterus) is one option. Another is chemotherapy, using drugs to try and stop the growth of cancer cells. And then, there is traditional radiation therapy, in which high-energy X-rays or other type of radiation is used to kill the cancer cells or keep them from growing.
All three of these options have their advantages – and distinct disadvantages – in terms of risks and side effects. Traditional radiation therapy, for example, can be a long, tiring process resulting in fatigue, skin problems, nausea, hair loss, and potential damage to healthy tissue and organs surrounding the cervix, to name just a few.
Cervical Cancer Treatment in Miami
There is now an effective, noninvasive, nonsurgical treatment for cervical cancer called CyberKnife®. This is a safe procedure which utilizes an image-guided robotic system to deliver extremely high doses of radiation with incredible precision. It targets the tumor so accurately and exclusively that it destroys the cancer cells while leaving nearby tissues and organs unaffected.
In fact, CyberKnife is so powerful that treatment only requires several sessions which can be completed in as little as one week. Best of all, there are few, if any, minor side effects with the CyberKnife system, which means there is no downtime. Once your treatment is done, you can resume your normal activities right away.
CyberKnife has helped hundreds of thousands of patients recover from all types of cancer for more than 30 years. To find out if you are a suitable candidate for this remarkable technology – also known as The Beam of Life – contact the CyberKnife Center of Miami today to arrange a private consultation.
You can reach us at (800) 204-0455 or (305) 279-2900 or fill out our to request an appointment. We look forward to seeing you and helping you beat this cancer while maintaining the lifestyle you love.