Cervical Cancer

Cervical Cancer is a cancer, which begins in the lining of the cervix. The cervix is the lower part of the uterus, which connects the body of the uterus to the vagina.

Cervical Cancer is usually diagnosed in middle-aged women, but it may occur in women as young as 20. It is directly related to sexual activity. Cervical Cancer does not occur in virgins. It is the eighth most common cancer affecting women. Cervical Cancer is most common in women from ethnic minorities and low-income backgrounds.

Cervical Cancer does not develop quickly. The affected cells take years to develop into cancer. Cervical cells that have begun to show changes, but are not yet cancerous, may be called pre-cancerous cells, cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN) or Cervical Dysplasia. These pre-cancerous cells do not display any symptoms. More than 90% of pre-cancerous cells can be detected by a simple procedure known as a Pap Smear, making Cervical Cancer highly preventable. Every woman who has ever had sex should have a Pap Smear every 2 years, even if she has only had one partner or does no longer have sex.

CAUSE
The risk factors for Cervical Cancer include:
• Age at first intercourse. The younger the woman, the greater the risk.
• Multiple sexual partners.
• Sexual relations with a man who has had multiple partners.
• Infection with the human papilloma virus, which causes genital warts. About 80% of sexually active women will contract the virus during their lives, but not all of these will develop cervical changes.
• Smoking.
• The oral contraceptive pill may be associated with a higher risk of human papilloma virus.

SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
Cervical Dysplasia does not cause any symptoms and can only be detected through microscopic examination of the cells, following a Pap smear. Once Cervical Cancer has developed, the following symptoms may occur:
• Irregular vaginal bleeding, usually after intercourse. This may be mistaken for menstruation or breakthrough bleeding in women on the oral contraceptive pill.
• Foul-smelling vaginal discharge, as the cancer begins to destroy the healthy tissues.
• Pelvic pain, lower back pain and pain in the buttocks and upper legs may occur.
• In extensive cancers, problems may develop as the cancer spreads to surrounding organs. This may include urinary or bowel incontinence, significant vaginal bleeding, swollen legs and kidney failure.

TREATMENT OPTIONS
Always consult your Doctor for diagnosis and advice. In no way is this information intended to replace the advice of a medical practitioner.
• For the management of pre-cancerous changes, see the Cervical Dysplasia topic. Cervical Dysplasia is usually easily treatable and will not affect a woman's ability to become pregnant or have children.
•All women who have ever had sex should have a Pap smear every two years. Women, who have had a previous abnormal smear, may be required to have smears more often.
• Cervical Cancer will require management by a team of specialists in gynaecological cancers. Treatment generally involves a combination of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy.

DIET HINTS
The European Prospective Investigation of Cancer (EPIC) is a long-term, large-scale study of the influence of diet on cancer in humans. The EPIC results recommend that people lose weight if overweight or obese and have a diet that is:
• High in fruits and vegetables.
• High in fibre.
• Low in red or processed meats.
• Low in saturated fat.

Evidence suggests that natural substances found in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and cabbage may lower overall cancer risk. Other cruciferous vegetables include rocket, watercress, garden cress, kale, bok choy, radish, horseradish and wasabi.

PREVENTION
Gardasil is the name given to the vaccine that immunises females and males against the sexually transmitted disease, human papillomavirus (HPV) Types 6, 11, 16 and 18. These strains of HPV are known to cause 7 out of 10 cervical cancers in women and 9 out of 10 cases of genital warts in both men and women.

VITAMINS/MINERALS/HERBS
Always consult your Doctor before taking any dietary supplements for advice on any possible side effects or drug interactions. This is particularly important during cancer therapy, as many chemotherapy drugs act by blocking the effects of certain vitamins.
• The antioxidant lycopene may provide protection against cancer of the cervix.
• Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that may help to fight cervical cancer by protecting healthy cells from free radical damage and inhibiting the proliferation of cancerous cells. Vitamin C when combined with Vitamin E may assist in prolonging survival in cancer patients.
• Vitamin E may assist in decreasing the rate of invasive cancer. Low levels of vitamin E are often found at every stage of cervical cancer. The more progressed the cancer, often the lower the tissue amounts of Vitamin E present. In these cases Vitamin E supplementation may be beneficial.

PHARMACIST'S ADVICE
1. The contraceptive pill is associated with a higher risk of Cervical Cancer. Ask your Pharmacist about alternative methods of contraception.
2. Condoms can help reduce the risk of human papilloma virus and genital warts.
3. Have a pap smear every two years and more often if you have had an abnormal smear before.
4. Anti-smoking products can help reduce cravings when quitting smoking. Ask your Pharmacist for advice.
5. Pain relief may be required if cancer is present. Ask your Pharmacist for advice.
6. Hot packs over the pelvic region can reduce pain.