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Did you know cervical cancer is preventable? No woman should die from cervical cancer. In Malaysia, cervical cancer ranks as the 3rd most popular cancer among women and 4th most common cancer globally. There are a huge percentage of women with insufficient knowledge about its prevention and importance.

What is Cervical Cancer?

Cervical cancer occurs in the women’s cervix which is the lower part of the uterus that connects uterus and vagina. Persistent HPV infection is the most common cause behind cervical cancer. There are over 100 types of HPV. There are low risk and high risk HPV. Low risk HPv strains cause genital warts and are less likely related to cancer. In comparison, high risk of HPv strains causes cervical cancer. Persistent infection with high-risk HPV can cause precancerous cervical lesions. If these lesions are not detected and not treated, they can slowly develop into cervical cancer. Over years, if a precancerous lesion is detected and treated promptly, you may be free from cervical cancer.

Cervical Cancer Symptom, Pink Highlighter, Beacon Hospital Malaysia

Signs and Symptoms of Cervical Cancer

Unfortunately, cervical cancer may not cause any sign of early cancer. In some cases, symptoms often appear when the tumour grows into surrounding tissues and organs. When there are clinical signs for cervical cancer, you are at the mid- or advanced stage of cervical cancer. This makes regular screening even more essential. Regular screening for cervical cancer acts as a preventive measure and detects any abnormal cell that may signify the outbreak of cancer.

Here are some of the most common signs of cervical cancer:

  • Pelvic pain.
  • Bleeding between periods.
  • Bleeding after sexual intercourse.
  • Bleeding in postmenopausal women.
  • Vaginal discharge with a strong odour.
  • Discomfort during sexual intercourse.

Risk Factors of Cervical Cancer:

  • Human Papillomavirus (HPV) infection
  • Having multiple sexual partners
  • Smoking
  • Family history of cervical cancer
  • Age factors
  • Sexually transmitted infections
  • Long-term use of oral contraceptives
  • Weakened immune system
  • Sexually active in at an early age

Management and Treatment

Treatment options and cancer management are decided based on several factors including stage of the disease, patients age and general health.

Test and treatments for cervical cancer includes colposcopy, chemotherapy, surgery, radiation, targeted therapy and immunotherapy

  • Colposcopy

Colposcopy is a procedure or test to take a closer look at the cervix. The cervix is the opening to your womb from vagina. This procedure is done to identify abnormal areas of the cervix. It also helps to magnify the abnormal area on the cervix.  During the procedure a tube swamped tool ( a speculum) is gently placed into the vagina to open it. A microscope is used to look at the cervix in greater detail. A small sample of cells may be taken from the cervix for testing. This is called a biopsy.

Treatment can be performed at the sametime by excising the abnormal area ( precancerous lesion) from the cervix, before it transforms into cancer.

  • Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells which can be given orally or intravenously (IV) where drugs are injected directly  through veins.Chemotherapy is often combined with radiotherapy it can also be used to help slow down the progression of cancer.

  • Surgery

There are 3 main types of surgery for cervical cancer:

Trachelectomy: Surgery to remove the cervix, and the upper part of the vagina and womb is left in place. Trachelectomy is usually offered if patients desire to have children in the future.

Hysterectomy: This is a surgery where the entire Uterus( womb) is removed. Post surgery patients will no longer have menstruation and will  ot be able to conceive.

Pelvic Exenteration: Pelvic exenteration is a surgery to remove multiple organs in the pelvis such as uterus, ovaries, bladder, rectum and other parts of the colon. This surgery  most often used to treat cervical cancer that has spread vigorously and has come back after treatment

  • Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy uses high-energy radiation to kill cancer cells and keep them from growing.There are 2 types of radiation therapy:

  • External beam radiation therapy (EBRT): An external radiation therapy where beams are generated outside of the patients and targeted at the tumours site.
  • Brachytherapy: radioactive materials are placed inside or next to the tumour with higher total dose of radiation to treat a smaller area.
  • Targeted Therapy

Targeted therapy uses drugs to target specific genes and proteins that help cancer cells survive and grow without damaging the healthy cells. Targeted therapy can be used to treat many different types of cancer. It can also be used in combination with other cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy.

Prevention is better than cure. Get your cervical screening done for early detection of cervical cancer.Cervical  screening involves a test called a Pap test that can find abnormal cells in the cervix before they become cancer.

If you are diagnosed with cancer, discuss with your oncologist or healthcare team to have better understanding on the disease management and treatment options.

Information by:


Dr Tan Chee Hoe

Consultant Gynaecologist

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