Cervical cancer refers to the formation of a tumor in the cervix. Rarely, it is also called pelvic cancer, as the organ is situated in the pelvic region.
The cervix is an important part of the female reproductive system that connects the vagina with the uterus. When the cells present in the cervical lining start dividing uncontrollably, it leads to the formation of a tumor.
It is possible to reduce the risk of cervical cancer through specific cervical cancer prevention and screening practices.
In developing countries like India, cervical carcinoma is still a burden. It is the second most common cancer diagnosed among Indian women. The risk of cervical cancer is found to increase around the age of 45 and peak at 55.
A large percentage of invasive cervical tumor cases are associated with chronic HPV infection.
There are different types of cervical cancer based on the cell type from which it arises. A few cervical carcinoma types are more common than the others.
The following are the most common types of cervical cancer:
Squamous cell carcinoma arises from the flat cells in the ectocervix, the bottom portion of the cervix. Squamous cell carcinoma accounts for about 80–90% of cervical tumor cases and is therefore the most common type of cervical cancer.
Adenocarcinoma arises from the glandular cells in the endocervix, the upper portion of the cervix. Adenocarcinoma of the cervix accounts for about 10–20% of cervical carcinomas.
The following are rare types of cervical carcinoma:
Adenosquamous carcinomas, also known as mixed carcinomas, carry the characteristic features of both squamous cell carcinomas and adenocarcinomas.
Glassy cell carcinomas are a rare and aggressive form of cervical carcinoma. The glassy cell carcinoma cells have a glass-like appearance when observed under a microscope, thus the name. This is one of the more aggressive types of cervical cancer, with a poor prognosis.
Neuroendocrine carcinomas account for a small percentage of cervical carcinomas. Neuroendocrine carcinomas arise from the hormone-producing cells associated with the neuroendocrine system. It is one of the rare types of cervical carcinoma.
The staging of cervical carcinoma is done to determine the extent of the disease's spread. Cervical cancer stages 0, 1, and 2 refer to the early stages of cervical tumors, while cervical cancer stages 3 and 4 refer to advanced-stage cervical cancers. The following are the indicators of different stages of cervical cancer:
Stage 0 cervical cancer refers to the earliest stage, where only cervical cell abnormalities are observed. The cancer cells are present on the surface and have not invaded the deeper tissues.
In this stage, cervical carcinoma remains confined to the organ and has not spread to the surrounding tissues or organs. Stage 1 cervical tumors have a favorable prognosis.
Stage 2 cervical cancer means that the disease has begun to spread beyond the cervix but is still confined to the pelvic region. To treat stage 2 cervical carcinoma, doctors often recommend a multimodal treatment approach.
In stage 3, the disease has spread to the lower part of the vagina or the pelvis's side walls. Stage 3 cervical carcinoma needs an aggressive treatment regimen.
In stage 4, the disease has advanced significantly; from the pelvic region to distant sites, such as the bladder, rectum, or other organs, the disease has spread to various parts of the body. It will need a multimodal approach, and often the treatment goal is to delay disease progression, prolong survival, reduce the pain and discomfort caused by the disease, and improve the quality of life.
Cervical cancer is a significant burden in India. It is also found to be more common in women from rural areas than in women from urban areas. A lack of awareness, limited access to screening facilities, fear associated with the disease, etc., have become the biggest contributors to the increasing incidence. Becoming aware of this cancer, its early signs and symptoms, and its risk factors helps reduce the risk of this condition and ensure timely medical attention.