At WiseGEEK, we're committed to delivering accurate, trustworthy information. Our expert-authored content is rigorously fact-checked and sourced from credible authorities. Discover how we uphold the highest standards in providing you with reliable knowledge.
Advanced cervical cancer is a malignancy that has spread beyond the confines of the cervix. Although cervical cancer may be successfully treated, advanced cervical cancer often jeopardizes a woman’s fertility. Treatment generally depends on the invasiveness of the malignancy and the woman's overall health.
Early-stage cervical cancer can start asymptomatically, meaning the woman experiences no signs of illness. A Pap test will generally reveal the presence of cancerous cells, prompting additional testing, such as a colposcopy, to evaluate the cervix. The presence of abnormal cells will necessitate a biopsy to obtain a sample of the cells for laboratory analysis. A confirmation of malignancy requires additional imaging tests, including magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), to determine the staging of the cancer. It is important to understand that advanced cervical cancer is considered a malignancy of stage two or greater.
Cervical cancer originates with the mutation of cervical cells. It is not known what instigates the mutation, but the affected cells reproduce erratically. Accumulating in a cluster that forms a tumor, the cells continue to mature without dying. Advanced cervical cancers, usually composed of mutated squamous cells, are defined by the unchecked cellular activity that allows for the spread of cancerous cells to surrounding tissues.
According to the Mayo Clinic, in the United States alone, an estimated 10,000 cases of advanced cervical cancer are diagnosed each year. Of those 10,000, almost half prove fatal. Research has demonstrated there is a link between human papillomavirus (HPV) infection and cervical cancer. The prevalence of HPV reinforces the importance of regular gynecological exams for all women, especially young women who are thinking about or have become sexually active.
Generally, signs and symptoms of advanced cervical cancer present as the malignancy matures. Abnormal vaginal bleeding is one of the most common signs of cervical cancer. Bleeding can occur, including during and after intercourse and between menstrual periods. Additional signs of cervical cancer can include back and pelvic discomfort and abnormal vaginal discharge.
Advanced cervical cancer usually requires a radical hysterectomy, which involves the removal the entire reproductive system, including the uterus and a portion of the vagina. Following surgery for advanced cervical cancer, a combination of chemo and radiation therapies may be administered to eliminate any residual malignancy. Side effects associated with radiation therapy can include pelvic discomfort and vaginal irritation. Depending on the chemotherapy drugs administered, some individuals experience nausea, weight loss, and diarrhea. Both anti-cancer therapies can initiate the onset of premature menopause in some women.