Cervical cancer

Cervical cancer (cervical carcinoma) is cancer of the cervix. The greatest risk factor for developing cervical cancer is being infected with a particular type of the human papillomavirus (HPV). If detected early, the treatment success rates are very high.

The uterus consists of two parts: the body of the uterus (corpus) and the cervix. Different types of cancer can develop in both parts. 

Reasons

Cervical cancer or cervical carcinoma develops in the lower part of the uterus – the cervix. Around 250 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer every year in Switzerland. About half receive the diagnosis when they are under 50 years old. The main risk factor for cervical cancer is being infected with certain types of the human papillomavirus (HPV 16 and HPV 18). Other factors that can increase the risk include smoking, having sex at a very young age, frequently changing sexual partners and additional infections like genital herpes. 

Symptoms

For a long time cervical cancer generally does not have any symptoms and is therefore often only detected in an advanced stage. Bleeding in between periods, after sexual intercourse or after menopause can be signs of cervical carcinoma. An annual gynaecological examination is the most important preventative measure for the early detection of cervical cancer.

Diagnosis

The disease is diagnosed by taking a smear (PAP smear) of suspicious areas on the cervix during a vaginal endoscopy.

Treatment

The treatment depends on how far the cervical cancer has developed. In its early stages, when the cancer is still contained within a specific location, it is sufficient to remove the affected part of the cervix. In later more advanced stages, it is usually necessary to remove the entire cervix. Sometimes the fallopian tubes and the ovaries also need to be removed. 

Depending on how far the cancer has progressed, an operation may need to be followed up with radiotherapy or chemotherapy.

Prevention

To prevent cervical cancer, it is recommended that young women receive a HPV vaccination before they become sexually active.