What is a Cervix Carcinoma?

J.M. Willhite
J.M. Willhite
A diagram of the female reproductive system, including the cervix.
A diagram of the female reproductive system, including the cervix.

A cervix carcinoma is a malignancy of epithelial origin within the cervix that contributes to tumor formation. Of the different types of neoplastic malignancies that may occur within the female reproductive system, cervical cancer is one of the most commonly diagnosed presentations. The condition frequently manifests in the presence of the human papillomavirus (HPV). Treatment for a cervix carcinoma is entirely dependent on the extent of its presentation, but often necessitates surgery and the administration of both chemo and radiation therapies.

A Pap smear is a routine gynecologic test used to detect cancerous cells in the cervix.
A Pap smear is a routine gynecologic test used to detect cancerous cells in the cervix.

There is no known, definitive cause for the development of a cervix carcinoma. Cervical tumor formation originates with the abnormal, uncontrolled growth of glandular or squamous epithelial cells within the cervix. Many diagnoses of cervical cancer occur in the presence of the sexually transmitted infection (STI) known as HPV. Women who began having intercourse at a young age or those with compromised immunity or an existing sexually transmitted infection or disease are believed to be at an increased risk for both HPV and the development of a cervix carcinoma. Certain behavioral factors, such as smoking or having multiple sexual partners, may also increase one’s chances for developing a cervical carcinoma.

A cervix carcinoma is frequently linked to human papilloma virus (HPV).
A cervix carcinoma is frequently linked to human papilloma virus (HPV).

A cervical carcinoma generally is detected with a Pap test, which is often administered during a routine female exam; detection usually prompts additional testing to determine the staging of the neoplastic growth. Imaging tests are frequently performed to evaluate the condition of the cervix and determine whether the malignancy has metastasized to surrounding tissues. Staging may be further determined with a biopsy, which allows for a closer examination of the presentation and composition of the dysplastic cells.

A staging of zero or one is usually assigned to those carcinomas that remain noninvasive and restricted to the surface of the cervix. If the carcinoma has become invasive and has spread to surrounding tissues but remains within the confines of the pelvic region, it is usually given a staging of two. Stage three carcinomas are those which have metastasized beyond the pelvic region and become invasive to other tissues. When the carcinoma has metastasized to areas and organs outside the pelvic area, such as the liver, it is considered to be stage four.

The presence of a cervix carcinoma does not always cause symptoms. Individuals may develop a carcinoma and remain asymptomatic for quite some time, meaning they do not experience any symptoms at all. There are several symptoms associated with the development of a cervix carcinoma that may present, including abnormal vaginal bleeding and a change in the composition or presentation of one’s vaginal discharge. It is also not uncommon for a cervix carcinoma to trigger intercourse-related pelvic discomfort.

Treatment for a cervix carcinoma is entirely dependent on the presentation of the carcinoma. Women who are diagnosed with a non-invasive cervical cancer may undergo a variety of procedures to treat the dysplastic condition. Frequently, a loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP) or cryosurgery may be performed to eliminate the presence of cancerous cells. The presence of increasingly invasive cancers often necessitates the administration of more extensive treatment. Usually, a hysterectomy is performed and the extent of surgery is entirely dependent on the invasiveness of the malignancy.

In the presence of advanced cervical carcinomas, surgery is generally followed with chemo and radiation therapies to eliminate any remaining cancerous cells and inhibit the growth of new ones. Therapy approach and dosage is usually determined on a case-by-case basis and may involve more than one cycle of treatment. Side effects associated with both forms of therapy include nausea, fatigue, and diarrhea. Since radiation involves the direct application of focused beams of energy, individuals who undergo this form of therapy may also develop irritation at the site of administration.

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    • A diagram of the female reproductive system, including the cervix.
      A diagram of the female reproductive system, including the cervix.
    • A Pap smear is a routine gynecologic test used to detect cancerous cells in the cervix.
      A Pap smear is a routine gynecologic test used to detect cancerous cells in the cervix.
    • A cervix carcinoma is frequently linked to human papilloma virus (HPV).
      A cervix carcinoma is frequently linked to human papilloma virus (HPV).