Cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer in women.
These diseases would be preventable, since a sexually transmitted pathogen is responsible for almost all cases.
Bremen – January is the month of “awareness” for cervical cancer.
On this occasion, the
World Health Organization (WHO
) points out that it is the fourth most frequently diagnosed type of cancer in women.
Viruses increase the risk of getting sick enormously, so it's a type of cancer that you can get infected with.
This is reported
Causes and symptoms of cervical cancer: Vaccination against HPV can protect
In almost all cases, the cause of cervical tumors is the human papilloma virus (HPV), which is mainly transmitted during unprotected sexual contact.
In fact, HPV is the most common sexually transmitted disease.
The risk of infection can be significantly reduced by vaccination - and with it a great many cancer diseases.
The vaccination works for both women and men – because they too are carriers and transmitters of the virus.
Some warning signs and symptoms tell you that you have cervical cancer.
© Jochen Tack/imago
According to the cancer registry of the Robert Koch Institute (RKI)
, around 4,600 women develop cervical cancer in Germany every year
Around 604,000 women were affected worldwide in 2020, most of them in countries with little economic power.
According to the WHO
, 342,000 women died
from cervical cancer, which is mainly due to the fact that there are few preventive healthcare options in low-income countries.
Consistent preventive care is essential for recognizing and successfully treating the disease.
Regular screening and early detection can prevent the onset of cervical cancer
Early detection of cervical cancer is also used in Germany.
Regular smears are used to examine the mucous membranes for precursors to tumours.
If these tissue changes are already advanced, they are surgically removed at discretion so that they do not develop into malignant tumors.
However, since cervical cancer almost always develops as a late consequence of infection with HP viruses, there are also various preventive measures to avoid the disease, above all the HPV vaccination.
Because this protects well against infection with the carcinogenic, i.e. cancer-causing, types of HPV.
Precursor and symptoms of cervical cancer: Correctly interpreting warning signs in good time
Since an infection with HPV usually runs its course without symptoms, most of those affected do not know anything about their disease - and therefore nothing about their increased risk of cancer.
Anyone who does not take preventive measures will probably only notice the disease when it is already at an advanced stage through symptoms.
Some signs are commonly associated with cervical cancer tumors, but they can also have other causes, such as inflammation.
Other symptoms can generally indicate a tumor disease, such as lung cancer, colon cancer or breast cancer.
If you notice symptoms that indicate a tumor in the cervix, you must urgently seek medical advice to rule out other diseases.
The first warning signs of cervical cancer include:
Overview of symptoms and warning signs of cervical cancer
unusual bleeding (e.g. after intercourse, outside of menstrual periods or after menopause when the bleeding has stopped)
unusual or foul smelling vaginal discharge
Pain during or after intercourse
fatigue and weight loss
abdominal and pelvic pain
Pain when urinating or having a bowel movement
swollen legs from congested lymphatic fluid
Cancer Information Service
German Cancer Research Center)
Risk factors for cervical cancer – these signs should be looked out for
The already mentioned HP virus is responsible for almost all diseases with cervical cancer.
However, infection with it does not necessarily lead to cancer.
There are over 200 different types of the virus and not all of them cause cancer, only the variants classified as high-risk HPV types.
As a rule, the immune system can cope with the pathogens and renders them harmless after a certain time so that they can no longer be detected.
This also applies to the high-risk types.
In some cases, however, the infection leads to cancer.
There are a number of other factors that further increase the risk of the infected tissue developing into a malignant tumor.
hormonal contraceptives (pill)
Immunosuppression (e.g. after organ transplants)
Infections with other sexually transmitted pathogens in the genital area (e.g. chlamydia, herpes simplex and gonococci)
genetic predisposition (rather secondary)
Nevertheless, these factors alone do not cause cervical cancer, but in almost all cases it is the combination with an infection with an HPV high-risk type.
But infection with low-risk types of the virus can also have unpleasant consequences: they can lead to genital warts.
These are harmless whitish-red growths in the intimate area, but they can be treated.
They can occur in both women and men because the virus also affects men.
They also become infected with HPV through unprotected sexual contact and are therefore carriers and transmitters of the virus.
There is also an increased risk of cancer from HPV for men – they can also infect others with the pathogen
Just like in women, men can also develop a tumor from the infected tissue, usually on the penis, anus or throat.
Researchers also found evidence that there could be a connection between the development of prostate cancer and HP viruses.
"There is still no scientific proof," says internist Jürgen Riemann to the
, vaccination against HPV is therefore not only worthwhile for girls, but also for boys.
Because even condoms do not necessarily protect against infection.
List of rubrics: © Jochen Tack/imago