Cervical cancer is cancer that forms in the cervix, located at the bottom of the uterus. According to the American Cancer Society, more than 11,000 women were diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2007; nearly one-third of them died. Cervical cancer differs from many other cancers because the primary cause or risk factor is not genetic or hereditary. It originates from a virus called the human papillomavirus, or HPV. HPV is a virus that many immune systems can handle. But if a certain strain of the virus does not completely leave the body over a certain period of time, it can cause abnormal, cancerous changes to cervical cells.
Early cervical cancer symptoms are often confused with symptoms associated with premenstrual syndrome or menstruation. Vaginal discharge, bleeding and abdominal pain could occur. With late-stage cervical cancer, symptoms are more intense and in other body parts. Fatigue, weight loss, pain in the back and legs, or bone fractures can indicate Stage 3 cervical cancer, which has a 30 percent to 40 percent five-year survival rate.
Cervical cancer kills mostly through metastasis, or the spreading of cancer cells. It can take 10 to 15 years for cervical cancer to develop in the body. Precancerous cells are detected in this time via Pap smears or an HPV test. If precancerous cells begin to become cancerous, treatment options are limited because the cells and abnormal growths are too small to see. If cervical cancer is caught in the late stages, the cells may have already spread to other body parts. Women would then have to battle the different related cancer stages associated with those vital organs.
Stage 4 Cancer
The five-year survival rate for Stage 4 cervical cancer is less than 15 percent. With Stage 4 cervical cancer, symptoms are often associated with where the cancer cells have spread. They can quickly spread to other critical body parts, such as the liver, lungs, rectum, bladder or vagina. If cervical cancer cells are in the lungs, shortness of breath and constant chest pain can occur if those cells are in Stage 2. Cervical cancer cells in the rectum can cause massive bacterial infections because rectal issue can become damaged from large tumor growths. Cells in the bladder could turn into tumors that block the body’s digestive waste path, causing a backup in the kidneys, which are responsible for filtering out waste from blood.