Cervical cancer occurs in the cells of the cervix — the lowermost part of the uterus that connects to the vagina. Most cases are caused by various strains of HPV, the human papillomavirus, a sexually transmitted infection.
At the OB/GYN practice of Dr. Hany H Ahmed in Houston, Texas, Dr. Ahmed and his team specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of cervical cancer.
But more than that, they recognize that prevention is far better than any treatment, so they conduct routine screening exams such as Pap smears to detect any cancerous cells when they’re small and easy to treat.
Cervical cells become cancerous for the same reasons any other cells do. They develop mutations (erroneous coding) in their DNA, the molecule responsible for storing your genetic code, an instruction book that tells your cells what they need to do.
Healthy cells grow and multiply at a set rate, and they die at a set time. Mutations can change the message, telling cells to grow, keep multiplying, and never die. The result is an accumulation of abnormal cells that form a cancerous tumor, which can spread to other parts of the body.
While the basic pattern of cervical cancer is the same as other cancers, its specific cause hasn’t yet been determined. What’s certain, though, is that HPV plays a role.
HPV is a common infection, but most people who have it never get cancer. This means other factors, such as lifestyle choices and environment, must help determine if cells turn cancerous.
There are two primary types of cervical cancer, and which kind you have helps determine your treatment.
This type begins in the thin, flat cells (squamous cells) lining the outer part of the cervix. Most cancers fall in this type.
This type begins in the glandular cells lining the cervical canal.
It’s possible to have a tumor involving both cell types. It’s rare, though, for any other cell type to become cancerous.
Early detection of cervical cancer leads to better treatment outcomes, which is why Dr. Ahmed offers two types of screening tests, Pap smears and HPV tests, and the HPV vaccine.
A Pap smear looks for precancerous lesions, cell changes in the cervix that could turn cancerous if not treated properly.
Women should start getting Pap smears as soon as they become sexually active. Dr. Ahmed determines how frequently you need them based on what he finds.
If your Pap smear comes back with abnormal results, don’t panic! It may simply mean that you have an HPV infection, which, by itself, isn’t a bad thing. Dr. Ahmed may choose to do another Pap smear, or he may opt for an HPV test.
Another possibility is a colposcopy, an in-office exam where the doctor uses a magnifying device to more closely observe your cervical tissue. If he discovers any abnormalities, he takes a biopsy of the tissue and sends it out for additional testing.
The HPV vaccine protects against the strains of HPV that most often cause cervical, vaginal, and vulvar cancers. The vaccine:
The HPV vaccine prevents new infections, but it doesn’t treat existing infections or the diseases they cause. That’s why it’s most effective before you’re exposed to HPV. Even with the vaccine, you need to get screened for cervical cancer regularly, as it won’t prevent all forms of disease.
Your best bet to prevent cervical cancer is to be proactive, getting screened regularly for the disease so if it’s present, it’s easier to treat. To learn more about the process, or to schedule a consultation with Dr. Ahmed, call our office at 713-489-3348 or book online with us today.