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Cervical Cancer Stages and Early Detection

in NJ, CT, & MD

Cervical cancer is the fourth most common form of cancer for females globally. This form of cancer generally grows slowly and is relatively nonaggressive, enabling many women to achieve excellent treatment outcomes. However, successful treatment depend in large part on the stage at which cervical cancer is treated, making early diagnose very important

The oncologists who specialize in cervical cancer at Regional Cancer Care Associates are equipped with the latest therapies for treating cervical cancer and other cancers and blood disorders. With locations throughout New Jersey, Connecticut, Maryland, and the Washington, D.C., area, Regional Cancer Care Associates provides individualized healthcare close to home.

What Is Cervical Cancer?

Cervical cancer is the irregular growth of cells in the cervix, which connects the uterus to the vagina. It generally is a slow-growing malignancy, and it can be identified by cervical screenings, such as a Pap test or liquid-based cytology test. Further, one thing many patients should realize about this type of cancer is that it is highly preventable, as discussed below.

Stages of Cervical Cancer

Five stages are used to indicate the severity, location, and spread of cervical cancer. They are:

  • Stage 0: Carcinoma is localized to the innermost lining of the cervix.
  • Stage I: Malignancy is still confined to the cervix, but has moved deeper into tissue and is 4-cm wide or more.
  • Stage II: Cancer has developed outside the uterus but not in the pelvic wall or lower vagina.
  • Stage III: Tumors are detected in the lower third of the vagina, pelvic wall, or regional lymph nodes. Kidney swelling and malfunction may occur at this stage.
  • Stage IV: Cancer has spread beyond the pelvis and into the bladder, rectum, or other regions of the body
Closeup of hands holding paper cutout of uterus

Cervical Cancer Signs and Symptoms

Cervical cancer signs and symptoms may be absent or difficult to detect during Stage 0 or Stage I. Possible signs and symptoms during these stages include:

  • Pelvic pain during intercourse
  • Vaginal bleeding during or after sex, between menstruation, or after menopause
  • Excessive bleeding during periods
  • Unusual vaginal fluids, which may be odorous
  • Lower back, pelvis, or lower abdomen pain

Cervical cancer symptoms during stages II to IV may include:

  • Pain while urinating or blood in the urine
  • Lower back and abdomen soreness
  • Swollen legs
  • Diarrhea or uncomfortable bowel movements
  • General fatigue
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss

Though these signs could be unrelated to cervical cancer, it’s recommended that patients consult their physician if they experience any of the above or other unusual symptoms.

Cervical Cancer Risk Factors

Patients can take several steps to reduce their risk of developing cervical cancer. Having regular Pap tests or other forms of cervical screening from ages 18 until 65, depending on the person and her health circumstances, are critical to detecting abnormal cell growth in the cervix. Typically, the earlier the disease is found and treated, the higher the survival rate. Factors that may increase the chance of developing the disease include:

  • Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection: More than 95% of all cases of cervical cancer stem from a prior HPV infection. The HPV vaccine can prevent the infection from forming in the first place, lowering a person’s risk for developing cervical and head and neck cancers.
  • Sex at a young age and/or with multiple partners: Intercourse at a young age or with multiple partners puts a person at higher risk of being infected with HPV, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), herpes, chlamydia, and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) that may increase the risk for cervical cancer.
  • Immune system deficiency: Patients with a compromised immune system are at higher risk of developing cervical cancer and other illnesses.
  • Smoking: Patients who use tobacco and smoke cigarettes are at greater risk for cervical cancer than those who don’t.
  • Socioeconomic factors: Cervical cancer is more prevalent among people who have less access to information about and screening for cervical cancer. In the United States, these populations often include Black, Latinx, Indigenous, and low-income communities.
  • Oral contraceptives: Long-term use of oral contraceptives also can increase the chances of cervical cancer. However, oral contraceptive use also has been shown to reduce the risk of developing another gynecologic malignancy, ovarian cancer, so it is important for a woman to talk with her Ob/Gyn or other healthcare provider about the benefits and risks of oral contraception as they apply specifically to her.

Cervical Cancer Treatment

A combination of cervical cytology and HPV tests is the most reliable way to identify the presence and nature of irregular cell growth in the cervix. If precancerous or cancerous cells are found, they may be treated with one or a combination of the following methods:

Surgery

Laser surgery can be used to destroy precancerous surface-level cervical cells. Other surgical options for managing precancerous cells include a cone biopsy and a loop electrosurgical excision procedure, or LEEP. When cells have become cancerous, hysterectomy – or removal of the uterus – along with excision of nearby lymph nodes often is performed.

Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy is a more-advanced, less-invasive way to eliminate cancerous cells while preserving healthy ones. One type of immunotherapy involves administration of monoclonal antibodies, which mark abnormal cells for the body’s immune system to remove.

Chemotherapy and Radiation

Chemotherapy eliminates cancerous cells using oral or intravenous drugs. Radiation therapy employs high-energy rays to destroy cancer cells.

Targeted Therapy

Targeted therapy involves the use of drugs that seek out and destroy cancerous cells with specific mutations while not affecting healthy cells.

Learn More About Cervical Cancer

Patients with cervical cancer can find the latest evidence-based treatment options at Regional Cancer Care Associates. The compassionate, well-trained physicians of Regional Cancer Care Associates treat a range of cancers and blood disorders at multiple locations in New Jersey, Connecticut, Maryland, and the Washington, D.C., area. Contact us or request an appointment today to learn more about cervical cancer stages and treatments.

RCCA’s personalized, caring approach to helping you beat cervical cancer

Although you’re not alone in facing cervical cancer, no other woman shares your unique combination of health status, lifestyle, family situation and age. For these and many other reasons, your care at RCCA is equally unique. From your first appointment, through treatment, while managing side effects and during post-treatment care, your RCCA team will be dedicated to your very individual journey back to good health.

For more information, or to schedule an appointment, call (844) 346-7222. You can also schedule an appointment by calling the RCCA location nearest you.

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