If you or your loved one has been diagnosed with a cervical cancer - Peter Mac is here to help.
Cervical cancer happens in the cells of the cervix. The cervix is a part of the female sex/reproductive system that connects the uterus (womb, where a baby grows) and vagina. The cervix is found at the lower part of the uterus and connects to the top of the vaginal canal (tube or passage).
There are two types of cervical cancer and they are very different. Each one is named after the type of cell in which it starts:
- Squamous cell carcinoma. This cervical cancer is the most common. This cancer starts in the cells (Squamous) of the lining that covers the surface of the cervix.
- Adenocarcinoma. This cervical cancer is less common. It starts in cells called glandular (gland) cells. Glandular cells are found in the cervical canal (tube or passage) from the small opening (neck) of the cervix leading into the uterus.
Cervical cancer can be localised, meaning the abnormal cells stay in and around the cervix only or it can spread from the cervix to other surrounding areas such as:
- the lymph nodes around the cervix,
- within the pelvis
- other nearby organs.
During early cervical cell changes (precancer) you may not notice any signs or symptoms. If cells develop into cancer, common signs or symptoms may include:
- pain in the pelvic (lower abdomen/tummy/belly) area
- blood or bleeding between your normal periods
- unusual bleeding during your period
- unusual discharge (loss of fluid/mucus) from your vagina
- pain or bleeding during or after sex.
Your first tests for diagnosis
The early stages of cervical cancer may go unnoticed. It is recommended all women between the ages of 18 to 70 have regular PAP smear tests done.
A PAP smear test is a method of checking for any abnormal cells or potential changes to cervical cells. It involves taking a smear (small scrape) of cells from your cervix and testing these under a microscope for abnormal changes.
Placing you at the centre of our work, your specialists will determine the type of cervical cancer it is.
To identify the correct cervical cancer, our experts will work with you and support you through a medical examination and other key tests such as:
- Pathology (blood tests)
- Imaging (scans and x-rays)
- Scopes (using a small camera to look inside)
We are dedicated to providing you with the best testing and treatment for cervical cancer.
We will design and provide a diagnosis and treatment plan that best responds to your condition and individual needs.
To diagnose the cervical cancer we may:
- conduct a colposcopy. This is a simple day procedure to see and examine the vagina and cervix with a small magnifying instrument/camera.
- take x-rays, CT and PET scans and MRIs. This will be done to show the exact size and place of the cancer.
- Perform a biopsy which is a small sample of cells or piece of tissue from the affected area.
The results from these tests will also help us understand how developed your cancer is. If there is cervical cancer, we will identify its stage. Staging is a way to describe or label how far the disease has spread and this will help guide your best treatment plan.
Focusing on you (treatment)
Your Peter Mac doctors will discuss and develop the best treatment plan for you. Treatments will depend on your diagnosis.
Cervical cancer treatment will depend on:
- the type of disease it is
- whether it has spread and how far (its stage)
- your general health and wellbeing
- your needs.
We will develop the most effective treatment plan for your condition and needs. Your treatment team may recommend any of the following treatments as part of your plan:
- chemotherapy (anti-cancer drugs) to help shrink or destroy the cancer cells before or after surgery.
- radiation therapy (strong and powerful beams of radiation/energy to kill and/or slow cancer cells) either before or after surgery or both.
External beam radiation therapy, directed and delivered from outside of the body.
Internal radiation therapy called brachytherapy, directed and delivered inside the body, up close to the cancer itself.
- clinical trials or
- a combination of these.
Enhancing your care (after treatment)
After effective treatment, patients will continue to see their specialist every three months. These visits are used to monitor your health and may include tests such as pathology, imaging (scans and x-rays) and small biopsies. Your specialist will discuss the best follow-up plan for you.
Living with cancer
We know how hard cancer and treatment can be. Your lifestyle and that of your loved one's will be disrupted and changed. During this time, it is common to struggle with ongoing concerns about cancer and therapy. There are many expert groups available to support you through this time, including:
At Peter Mac, we focus on all aspects of your health and wellbeing. Our cervical experts will help support and guide you to the best information and managed care.
Our specialist nurses can refer you to our:
Our specialist nurses can refer you to our:
- allied health services
- support services
- patient information resources
- support groups.
PATIENT AND CARER RESOURCES
For more information about cervical cancer, its treatment and support for patients and families, download copies of the following resources: