Cervical Cancer by Nickeze
In this blog, our Nickeze Nurse Ellie, will take us through Cervical Cancer, having had pre-cancerous cells detected herself at the age if 28, she understands very well the importance of screening and early detection and treatment.
In the wake of the untimely death of the lovely and courageous Vicky Phelan who did so much for highlighting women’s health and cervical cancer that can affect many younger women in their prime. Cervical Cancer is often very treatable if detected early. Having has CIN II (pre-cancerous cells) at the age of 28, I know only too well, the importance of detecting these abnormal cells early so they can be treated and followed up by cervical screening to ensure there is no further changes. I am one of the lucky ones that my screen was read properly and I received the necessary intervention to go on to have my children and to date, live a full and healthy life. But I can’t help thinking only for the grace of God, there goes I with what is now the well documented failure within the system for so many women, including Vicky. But that is being well discussed on the airwaves right now but Vicky was about so much more, she wanted change, she wanted things to be better for female health.
As part of the Nickeze Wellness Blogs, we often talk about health issues that affect girls and teens. Here is a short blog on Cervical Cancer, to help us understand it, and how it develops over time. And you will see why screening and early intervention is key to dealing with it. The references are contained at the end of the blog if anyone wants to do further reading on the topic.
What is Cervical Cancer?
Cervical cancer is when abnormal cells in the lining of the cervix grow in an uncontrolled way and eventually develop into cancer. If not caught early cancer cells gradually grow into the surrounding tissues and may spread to other areas of the body, which is called metastasis.
What is the Cervix?
The cervix is the lower part of the womb (uterus), also called the neck of the womb. The womb and the cervix are part of the female reproductive system. The cervix is the opening to the vagina from the uterus (womb).
How and where cervical cancer begins
The cervix is covered with a layer of cells on its outer surface, called the ectocervix. Inside of the cervix, there are glandular cells that produce mucus. This is called the endocervix. The skin-like cells of the ectocervix can become cancerous, leading to a squamous cell cervical cancer. This is the most common type of cervical cancer. The glandular cells of the endocervix can also become cancerous, leading to an adenocarcinoma of the cervix. So you can see that although these are both cervical cancer, they can develop in two different cell groups.
The area where cervical cells are most likely to become cancerous is called the transformation zone. It is the area just around the opening of the cervix that leads on to the endocervical canal. The endocervical canal is the narrow passageway that runs up from the cervix into the womb.
The transformation zone is the area that your doctor or nurse checks during cervical screening. Cervical screening is not a test for cancer. It is a test to help pick up any abnormal cervical cells. If left untreated, the abnormal cells might develop into cancer. If abnormal cells are detected, the area is treated by your gynaecologist, to remove those pre-cancerous cells and hopefully that is that. You will attend cervical screening as per your national protocol for years after and gradually the time between screening will be extended if everything stays well.
How common is cervical cancer?
Almost 300 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year in Ireland according to the Irish Cancer Society.
Cervical cancer is treated with surgery, radiotherapy, and chemotherapy, depending on the type.
Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology (11th edition)
VT DeVita , TS Lawrence, SA Rosenberg
Lippincott, Williams and Wilkins, 2019
Cervical cancer: ESMO Clinical Practice Guidelines for diagnosis, treatment and follow up
C Marth and others
Annals of Oncology, 2017. Volume 28, Supplement 4
PL Martin-Hirsch and NJ Wood
BMJ Clinical Evidence, 2011. Volume 2011, Issue 0818
Moore Essential Clinical Anatomy (5th edition)
KL Moore, AMR Agur and AF Dalley
Wolters Kluwer, 2015
UK Cancer Society