If cancer of the cervix is diagnosed, treatment in specialised centres is essential. Here full facilities are available and expert professional attention is possible. Very early cases are treated by hysterectomy. All other stages are now treated by the use of radiotherapy in most centres, although surgery in combination is also used. Radium, cobalt 60 and megavoltage X-ray therapy are the chief methods in use. This has a strikingly beneficial effect in destroying the rapidly multiplying cancer cells.
Although cervical cancer is the most common type seen, the disease can also occur in other parts of the uterus. Malignant changes can occur in the endometrium (the cells lining the womb).
The great majority of these occur in iv-omen who have passed the menopause, and the age range of from 55 to 65 years is the most prevalent.
A “typical” woman has been described who is more likely to develop this type of cancer. She is postmenopausal. During life her periods were most likely very heavy; the change of life was probably late probably extending beyond the age of 50. She may be unmarried, or if’ married. sterile. She is most likely overweight, may have elevated blood pressure, and may be a diabetic. Often, fibroids (noncancerous growths) are present in the uterus as well.
Uterine Cancer Symptoms
Symptoms are usually minimal. In early cases, the only one is a blood-stained discharge. It may be thin and watery, irregular but recurrent. It may be foul-smelling. This is nearly always in a woman during her menopausal years or afterwards.
It is axiomatic among doctors that any bleeding or blood-stained discharge appearing in a woman following the menopause must be considered due to cancer until proved otherwise.
Immediate investigation is usually ordered. This consists of a dilatation and curettage of the uterus, and the scrapings from this are examined by the pathology experts for cancer cells.
Uterine Cancer Treatment
If cancer is detected, treatment is carried out promptly. This is usually a surgical operation, although radiation is also used. Hormones have also been found to have a beneficial effect in reducing the cancer, and under certain circumstances, this is used in addition.
The earlier treatment is carried out, the better is the outcome. Therefore, every woman must be alert to the telltale symptoms.
Never neglect seemingly innocuous bleeding, and the older you are, the more important this becomes.
No apology is made for the recurring nature of these recommendations throughout this section. You will read it again and again. So please take special note. And act very promptly if this symptom comes your way.
When a smear test is taken, a glass slide containing cervical cells is sent to a pathology laboratory, stained, and then studied under the microscope by trained technicians who seek abnormal cells. Despite all care, about 10 per cent of positive cases arc missed, as there is a human factor.
Larger pathology laboratories have now installed computer-assisted technology to reduce incorrect reports. It is called Papnet, and is claimed to reduce wrong results to 1 per cent or less.
If there is any query, another smear will be taken and rechecked. It is claimed regular use of smear tests has reduced the rate of cervical cancer to 50 per cent, and new technology should improve this still further. Talk to your doctor.