Cervical Cancer - Causes & Risk Factors

Cervical Cancer - Causes & Risk Factors

Cervical cancer is mainly caused by an infection from the human papillomavirus (HPV). However, not all HPV infections cause cervical cancer. Most women who contract the HPV infection in their lifetime get rid of the infection on their own within a few years. For a full blown cervical cancer to develop, other risk factors emerging from your lifestyle have a major role to play.

Causes of Cervical Cancer
Most cases of cervical cancer are caused because of certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. HPV can be contracted from skin-to-skin contact of the genital area of men and women. 

Factors that can increase your risk for cervical cancer
Some genetic and lifestyle factors can increase your risk for HPV contraction - that may lead to cervical cancer. But these factors contribute only to a pre-existing HPV infection:

  • Starting sexual intercourse at a young age
  • Having multiple sex partners
  • Personal history of other sexually transmitted infections 
  • Sexual relation with a partner who had sex with someone who has/had cervical cancer
  • Having more than three pregnancies 
  • Pregnancy before the age of 17
  • Having a family history of cervical cancer
  • Long term use of oral contraceptives 
  • A weak immune system
  • Habit of smoking
  • Having an uncircumcised partner 
  • Unhygienic living conditions

Types of cervical cancer
Squamous Cell Carcinoma: 8 out of 10 cervical cancers are squamous cell cancers. This type of cancer is composed of the flat cells (squamous cells) which cover the surface of the cervix.
Adenocarcinoma: Approximately 1 in 10 cervical cancers are adenocarcinoma. The cancer develops in the glandular cells that cover the cervical canal. This is a more difficult type of cancer to detect through cervical screening tests as it develops inside the cervical canal.
Adenosquamous Cancers: This is the uncommon type that contains both squamous and glandular cancer cells.

Signs and symptoms to monitor for cervical cancer
Like other cancers, cervical cancer doesn’t show any symptoms unless it reaches its advanced stages. It is important to know that finding the cancer at an early stage is important for treating it successfully. The most common symptom of cervical cancer is unusual vaginal bleeding - between periods, after or during sexual intercourse, any time if the woman is past menopause, or vaginal discharge that smells unpleasant and discomfort or pain during sex.

These are the signs when the cancer spreads out of cervix into surrounding tissues and organs:

  • Presence of blood in the urine
  • Constipation
  • Loss of bladder control
  • Pain in the bones
  • Swelling in one leg
  • Severe pain in side or back 
  • Changes in bowel and bladder habits
  • Sudden loss of appetite and weight loss
  • Constant tiredness and lack of energy

Various diagnostic tests are conducted for confirming the diagnosis of cervical cancer like a pelvic examination, x-ray, blood tests, MRI or PET-CT. These tests help the doctor to understand the extent to which cancer has progressed and whether the cancer cells have spread to other parts of the body. This process is known as staging. Knowing which stage the disease has progressed helps in planning an appropriate treatment. 

Full body preventive health checkups at regular intervals or annual health screenings are the best way to prevent cervical cancer and also most helpful in detecting and diagnosing it in its early stages that helps in treatment and saving life. Book your annual full body health checkup now at a fully equipped centre near you.

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