National Cancer Institute defines Cervical Cancer as:
Cancer that forms in tissues of the cervix (the organ connecting the uterus and vagina). It is usually a slow-growing cancer that may not have symptoms but can be found with regular Pap tests (a procedure in which cells are scraped from the cervix and looked at under a microscope).
Does Smoking Cause Cervical Cancer or Not:
Some hard facts
In the United States, cervical cancer accounts for 6% of all cancers in women. It usually affects women between the ages of 50 and 55 years. Worldwide, cervical cancer is the second most common cancer among women with over 400,000 new cases diagnosed each year. The incidence is very high in developing countries. In the last 40 years there has been a 75% decrease in the number of deaths due to cervical cancer in the United. The main reason is the use of the “pap test” as a screening tool.
Smoking and Cervical Cancer
Scientists are not clear about the relationship between smoking and the development of cervical cancer. But scientists do know that carcinogens from smoke can actually be found in cervical mucous. Those carcinogens damage cells and allow human papilloma virus, HPV, to infect cells of the cervix.
More than 90% of women with cancer of the cervix are infected with the human papilloma virus (HPV). The viruses are passed from one person to another during unprotected sex.Still other studies have found that smoking can depress the immune system.
The cause of cervical cancer is not known, however, certain factors are believed to increase one’s risk of developing cervical cancer. Engaging in sexual activity at a young age is one such factor. The cells lining the cervix do not fully mature until the age of 18 and, therefore, are more susceptible to cancer causing-agents and viruses.
Smoking is considered a risk factor, possibly because smoking causes some abnormal changes in the cells and these cells have a higher likelihood of becoming cancerous.
Cervical Cancer and Passive Smoking
The Hopkins researchers examined the personal cigarette smoking and household passive smoking exposures of two cohort groups in 1963 and 1975. The researchers found a stronger association between passive smoking and an increased risk for developing cervical neoplasia in the earlier cohort study. It is found that both active and passive smoking increases a woman’s risk for developing cervical neoplasia.
Exposure to secondhand smoke can be reduced, and taking steps to reduce exposure may help to prevent cervical cancer.
Symptoms of Cervical Cancer
Early cervical cancer causes no symptoms, though bleeding or spotting between periods or after intercourse can be a symptom of cervical cancer. Most women have no symptoms. The cancer is usually detected at the time of the annual Pap smear and pelvic exam. Abnormal vaginal bleed or bloodstained discharge at unexpected times, such as between menstrual periods, after intercourse or after menopause are noticeable symptoms. Abnormal vaginal discharge may be cloudy or bloody or may contain mucus. In advanced stages there may be pain.
Cervical Cancer – Prevention
- Most cases of cervical cancers can be prevented. One of the best ways to prevent cervical cancers is by having regular Pap tests. If pre-cancerous changes are detected, appropriate treatment can prevent them from developing into invasive cancers.
- Another way to prevent cervical cancers is by abstaining from sexual relations when one is very young, and using appropriate precautions when engaging in sexual activity. Quitting smoking will also help to reduce the risk for cervical cancers.
Treatment for cervical cancer depends on the stage of the disease and the extent of its spread. Three standard modes of treatment are surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy.
A radical hysterectomy removes the entire uterus, the ovaries and the upper of the vagina that is next to the cervix and the lymph nodes from the pelvic region.
Sources: OSU, JHSPH, PSU