Women and their healthcare providers have increasingly won the battle against cervical cancer in recent decades. Better recourse to vigilance, to heading off risks factors and to early treatment has helped decrease prevalence of this disease.
Lourdes gynecologists emphasize a schedule of screening to achieve cervical cancer prevention and detection, using Pap smears and pelvic examination.
|Caught early, cervical cancer can be cured. And if necessary, fertility can often be preserved.|
Optimal frequency of testing may depend on a woman’s medical and personal history and other risk factors, including whether or not she tests positive for exposure to the human papillomavirus (HPV). The Lourdes staff follows the latest recommendations for this testingfor all patients.
The primary risk for cervical cancer is combined exposure to the human papillomavirus and cigarette smoke. It is not yet fully understood how this leads to greater likelihood of precancerous cells developing in the cervix.
Finding Problem Cells Early
The cervix is the lower, narrow portion of the uterus (or womb). Precancerous cell growth (dysplasia) in the cervix and early cervical cancer usually have no symptoms,. But testing and treatment has helped prevent the vast majority of patients with abnormal Pap smears from developing cervical cancer. Precancerous changes in the cervix are slow to grow or develop into cancer, but are common and readily treatable to prevent cancer.
In patients with abnormal test results, the staff examines the cervix directly using colposcopy and takes a biopsy sample for evaluation in the laboratory. If the team confirms a precancerous condition or cancer diagnosis, it will establish stage of the cancer with a variety of microscopic, endoscopic and radiologic testing. Invasive cervical cancer can cause such symptoms as abnormal bleeding.
Treating to Prevent Cancer
The Lourdes staff is highly experienced in treating precancerous cervical dysplasia through destruction of any abnormal tissue, so that the cervix is preserved. Specialists use instruments that apply electrical or laser energy to heat and destroy these cells, or that kill the cells by freezing them (cryoablation).
Performed early and promptly, this treatment is successful in almost all cases of cervical dysplasia. Continued testing is essential, though, as the condition can return and require additional treatment.
|Younger Women: Get VaccinatedThe human papillomavirus (HPV) remains the primary causative agent in cervical cancer. Women who have the virus have usually had it transmitted to them through sexual contact. The virus is common and thought to be present in about half of all sexually active individuals.The HPV vaccine prevents women from contracting this virus from the most common types of HPV that causes the problem. Even if a woman is already HPV positive, the vaccine can help protect against other strains of HPV. This series of shots is recommended for girls age 11 or 12 and can be given to females ages 9 to 26. It helps to prevent pre-cancer and cancer of the cervix, vagina, and vulva, as well as genital warts.|
Options in CervicalCancer Surgery
Cancer care at Lourdes has a special commitment to female reproductive cancers. The gynecology staff offers the full range of surgical options for cervical cancer. The treatment recommended will depend on the location and extent of the cancer, and whether the woman wants to have children in the future.
Certain treatments for early stages of cervical cancer can preserve the ability to have children. Operations that leave the uterus in place include:
- removal of only a wedge or cone-shaped portion of cervical tissue that contains the cancer, with surgical repair of the uterus as needed;
- or a trachelectomy procedure, in which the surgeon removes the cervix, part of the vagina and the pelvic lymph nodes. This procedure can be performed through the vagina or abdomen, with reattachment of the remaining vagina to the uterus, and the team uses laparoscopy to remove nearby lymph notes. The surgeon draws the bottom of the uterus together with a cerclage to allow the patient to carry any future pregnancies, which are delivered by caesarian section.
For invasive or advanced cervical cancer, the program offers skilled, experienced radical hysterectomy surgery, an operation to remove the cancerous cervix as well as the rest of the uterus-performed increasingly at Lourdes with robotic surgery. Radiation therapy is an important additional optional for treating this cancer, as is chemotherapy especially for more advanced cases. Lourdes gynecologic oncologists manage a very specific combination of these treatments for each patient depending on the exact stage of her disease.
Most women can be cured of early invasive cervical cancer. Lourdes’ gynecologic specialists work with Lourdes medical oncologists and radiation oncologists for any chemotherapy and radiation therapy that the patient may require, and for comprehensive planning and scheduling of care.