What you need to know about cervical cancer (I)
1.Why is cervical cancer considered a serious disease threatening women's health?
Cervical cancer is a common female malignant tumor that occurs in the cervix (uterine orifice). Once women get cervical cancer, their quality of life and health will be seriously threatened.
The number of cervical cancer patients in China accounts for 18% of the world’s total. Every year, about 110,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer and about 59,000 women die from it. In China, one woman is diagnosed with cervical cancer every 5 minutes, and one woman in every 9 minutes loses her life because of it. Women in rural areas have a higher risk of developing cervical cancer than those in urban areas.
Most patients in the early stage of cervical cancer have no obvious physical discomfort, so it is easily ignored. When the disease worsens, physical discomfort or abnormal conditions will occur, which means it may have reached the advanced stage, and the effect of treatment will limited.
Nowadays, an increasing number of younger women are getting cervical cancer. Many patients are diagnosed with cervical cancer at the age between 35 and 55. If women are infected with HPV (human papillomavirus), which causes cervical cancer, poor health and high medical expenses will seriously affect their normal life, work and study.
However, cervical cancer can be prevented by effective means, such as vaccination against HPV, regular cervical cancer screening and so on.
2.How does cervical cancer happen?
Continuous infection of high-risk human papilloma virus (HPV) (for two years or more) is the main cause of cervical cancer. A total of 14 kinds of HPV have been considered as high-risk and related to cervical cancer. HPV-16 and HPV-18 alone account for 70% of diffuse cervical cancer and 50% of precancerous lesions.
The carcinogenic process of high-risk HPV infection is very long, from HPV infection, continuous HPV infection, to a cervical intraepithelial neoplasia to cervical invasive cancer, which can last for several years or even decades.
3.What is cervical precancerous lesions?
Among the people infected with HPV, only 10 to 20 percent of women with persistent infection may develop precancerous pathology, and it takes 10 to 20 years for precancerous lesions to develop into invasive cervical carcinoma, with an average of 12 years, which makes it possible to detect the disease through screening. Once cervical precancerous lesions is found, the incidence and mortality rates of invasive cervical cancer can be slashed after standardized treatment and long-term follow-up.
4.Who is prone to cervical cancer?
Women who have had sex all have a potential risk of having been exposed to cervical cancer.
High-risk groups include women who:
(1) have been continuously infected with high-risk HPV;
(2) have early sexual experience;
(3) with multiple sexual partners or partners having multiple sexual partners;
(4) have had an early marriage, early pregnancy, multiple pregnancies or multiple births;
(5) have poor personal hygiene habits;
(6) with low immunity;
(7) with a family history of cervical cancer;
(8) with a history of cervical precancerous lesions;
(9) have taken oral contraceptives for a long term, who smoke or who are malnourished.
5.Will HPV infection lead to cervical cancer?
HPV infection is common in sexually active people, and more than 80 percent of women have been infected with at least one type of HPV virus in their life.
About 80 to 90 percent of HPV infection can be cured within two to three years through self-immunity. A small number of women (about 10 percent) have sustained HPV infection or repeated infection, and have become a high-risk group for cervical cancer.
Therefore, people infected with HPV will not necessarily get cervical cancer. Positive test results for high-risk types of HPV only indicates the existence of high-risk viruses; it does not mean that you are afflicted with cervical cancer; so, don't panic and follow your doctor’s advice for further checkup or treatment.