Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Guest post: Cervical Cancer and Radiation: How They Affect the Body

Cervical Cancer and Radiation: How They Affect the Body

By Leslie Vandever

What is Cervical Cancer?

Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that occur in the cells lining the cervix, the lower part of the
womb (uterus). It connects to the vagina, or birth canal.
There are several risk factors for cervical cancer, including genetics, smoking, a weakened
immune system, many sexual partners, early sexual activity, and some sexually transmitted
diseases (STIs), such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, or HIV/AIDS.
But the most dangerous risk factor is the human papilloma virus (HPV), which is actually a
large group of common viruses, many which cause warts. Transmitted by skin-to-skin contact or
sexual activity, HPV usually has no symptoms. Having it along with other risk factors can make
cervical cancer more likely. Most women who get HPV clear it naturally from their systems
without a problem, and without developing cervical cancer.
The best way to avoid cervical cancer is to have regular gynecological checkups, including PAP
smears to detect cellular changes early, when successful treatment is more likely. In addition,
both women and men should have the HPV vaccine, which greatly reduces the chance for

How is Cervical Cancer Treated?

How cervical cancer is treated depends on the stage the cancer has reached and any other health
problems you might have. They include:
• hysterectomy
• radiation therapy
• chemotherapy
Hysterectomy, or the removal of the uterus, cervix, and cancer cells, is the main treatment
for the early stages of cervical cancer. If the cancer has invaded to a depth of more than 3
millimeters, doctors perform a radical hysterectomy, which includes the removal of the cervix,
uterus, part of the vagina, and lymph nodes in the area. Hysterectomies often cure cervical cancer
and prevent its recurrence.

Radiation therapy focuses radioactivity near the cervical cancer cells to destroy them using
an external beam, or internally using with objects filled with radioactive material. Doctors may
combine external and internal radiation, use it before or after surgery, or both.

Chemotherapy involves the use of powerful chemical drugs to destroy cervical cancer cells.
Used alone or in combination with radiation therapy, chemotherapy drugs are injected into a vein
and travels throughout the body, destroying fast-growing cells.
Effects of Radiation Therapy on the Body

While it destroys cervical cancer cells, radiation therapy can also have unpleasant side effects.
Usually, they go away not long after therapy ends, but sometimes they’re permanent. They
Diarrhea—soft, loose, or watery stools—may occur during radiation therapy. Radiation harms
cancer cells, but it also harms healthy cells in the pelvis and abdomen, including those in the
large and small bowels.

Nausea and vomiting occur for the same reason as diarrhea during radiation therapy. It may be
mild or harsh depending on how much radiation, how much of your body is within the radiated
area, and whether you’re receiving chemotherapy as well.
Fatigue—feeling mildly to extremely tired—is a common side-effect of radiation therapy. There
are several factors involved, including anemia, anxiety, stress, depression, infection, your age,
level of health and activity, and how you felt before radiation started. It can last from six to 12
weeks after radiation has ended.

Sexual and fertility changes can result from radiation therapy. It can change hormone
production and levels that affect sexual desire, cause pain or discomfort during sex, vaginal
dryness, burning, or itching; vaginal stenosis; and symptoms of menopause. Radiation can also
affect a woman’s ability to become pregnant during or after therapy.

Urinary and bladder changes may result from radiation therapy as well. It may affect the
healthy cells of the bladder, causing burning or pain during or after urination, frequent, urgent
need to urinate; incontinence; cystitis; and other symptoms.
Skin changes and hair loss may occur in the radiated area; it causes skin to break down and die.
Your skin may become red and swollen; itch intensely; become dry and peel; or form sores or

For more information about cancer or other health-related issues, click here.
Leslie Vandever is a professional journalist and freelance writer with more than 25 years of
experience. She lives in Northern California.

• Cervical Cancer. (2013, June 28) Mayo Clinic. Retrieved on October 15, 2014 from http://
• Cervical Cancer. (2013, October 30) National Institutes of Health. Retrieved on October 15,
2014 from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000893.htm
• Cervical Cancer. (n.d.) American Cancer Society. Retrieved on October 15, 2014 from http://
• Radiation Therapy to the Pelvis. (2014, May 2) American Cancer Society. Retrieved
on October 15, 2014 from http://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatmentsandsideeffects/
treatment types/radiation/understandingradiationtherapyaguideforpatientsandfamilies/
• What You Need to Know About Cervical Cancer. (2012, March 29) National Cancer
Institute. Retrieved on October 15, 2014 from http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/wyntk/
• Side Effects of Pelvic Radiography in Woman. (2013, March 1) McMillan Cancer Support.
Retrieved on October 15, 2014 from http://www.macmillan.org.uk/Cancerinformation/
• Radiation Side Effects and Ways to Manage Them. (2007, April 20) National Cancer
Institute. Retrieved on October 15, 2014 from http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/coping/

'Thanks to Leslie for a great post and bring more awareness to cervical cancer and the devastating effects.

More later -

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