Cervical Cancer: Screening and early diagnosis

Cervical Cancer: Screening and early diagnosis

Cervical Cancer

Cervical cancer is the fourth most frequent cancer in women with an estimated 570,000 new cases in 2018 which represents 6.6% of all female cancers. Approximately 90% of deaths from cervical cancer occurred in low- and middle-income countries.

Prevention 

Prevention, early diagnosis, effective screening and prompt treatment is recommended so that the high mortality rate can be reduced. Furthermore, vaccination against common cancer-causing types of human papillomavirus significantly reduces the risk of cervical cancer.

Early Diagnosis

Diagnosing cervical cancer at an early stage and providing access to effective treatment can significantly improve the likelihood of survival. Currently, in many low resource settings, the disease is often not identified until it is further advanced resulting in a higher rate of death.

Symptoms 

  • Irregular or intermenstrual (between periods) bleeding
  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding after sexual intercourse
  • Back, leg or pelvic pain
  • Fatigue, weight loss and loss of appetite
  • Vaginal discomfort or odorous discharge and
  • A single swollen leg

More severe symptoms may arise at advanced stages.

Screening

Screening is done to detect precancerous changes, which, if not treated, may lead to cancer. Women who are found to have abnormalities on screening are followed-up for diagnosis and treatment otherwise they might progress to cancer.

There are different modalities to screening and include the following:

  • Screening should be performed at least once for every woman in the target age group 30-49 years
  • Recommended screening tests are HPV testing, cytology and visual inspection with acetic acid (VIA) and
  • Cryotherapy or loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP) is done as treatment for women who screen positive.

Credit: WHO

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