​Cervical Cancer

Cervical cancer is a cancer of the cervix, the lower part of the uterus that connects to the vagina. It is predominantly caused by Human Papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted disease. Usually, human papillomavirus is fought off by a woman’s immune system. However in some cases, it nests and breeds, ultimately leading to cancer. If discovered early, it is highly treatable.

Risk factors typically associated with cervical cancer are:

  • HPV infection or risk of HPV infection as a result of having many sexual partners

  • Having sex at an early age

  • Infection to other sexually transmitted diseases

  • Family history of cervical cancer

  • Weak immune system

  • Smoking

  • Obesity or being over weight

  • Diet low in fruit and vegetables

Common symptoms for cervical cancer are:

  • Unusual vaginal bleeding (during intercourse, between periods or after menopause)

  • Pain during intercourse

  • Abnormal vaginal discharge

You should be watchful of your menstruation cycle. Visit a medical practitioner working with the Women's Health Care Service Line at The Aga Khan University Hospital immediately if you notice vaginal bleeding or unusual vaginal discharge that is not linked to your periods.

You should be wary of the slightest change, even if it is abnormal spotting. Consult a doctor working with the Oncology Service Line at The Aga Khan University Hospital if you feel pelvic cramps and experience pain during urination or intercourse.
Your time with your doctor maybe limited, so make sure to prepare for your visit beforehand. Here are some tips to help get you started.

Detecting cervical problems at an early stage may lead to the prevention of cervical cancer altogether or a high likelihood of successful treatment. As a result, it is recommended that you start screening for cervical cancer from age 21. Cervical cancer screenings may be done in one of two ways:

  • Pap test: cells inside the cervix are extracted to undergo testing in the laboratory

  • HPV DNA test: cells inside the cervix are extracted and tested for HPV infection

In cases where cervical cancer is suspected, the following procedures may be performed to extract cervical cells for further diagnosis:

  • Punch biopsy – during this procedure, your doctor will use a sharp tool to pinch off a small sample of cervical tissue for examination.

  • Colposcopy – This examination involves using a colposcope (a small microscope with a light attached at the end). The test helps determine whether there are any abnormalities in your cervix.

  • Endocervical curettage – this procedure involves scraping a small sample of tissue from the cervical canal using a curette (a small, instrument the is shaped like a spoon).

  • Loop Electrosurgical Excision Procedure – this is where the doctor uses a loop of electric wire to cut off a slice of thin round cervical tissue.

  • Cone biopsy – this is a minor operation where a small, cone-shaped portion of your cervix is removed and examined under a microscope to see if there are any cancerous cells.

If cancer is detected, you will undergo further tests such as a Computerized Tomography (CT) scan or examination of the bladder or rectum to ascertain at which stage the cancer has progressed

Depending on the tests, cervical cancer is diagnosed into one of the following stages:
  • Stage I: cancer is in the limited to the cervix

  • Stage II: cancer is in the cervix as well as the upper vagina

  • Stage III: cancer has spread to the lower vagina

  • Stage IV: cancer has spread to other organs

Based on the extent of the cancer as well as your overall health and medical history, you may undergo any of the following treatments:

  • Surgery: if the cancer is in its early stages, the doctors may only remove your cervix and uterus in order to remove the cancer. However if it has progressed significantly, then part of the vagina and lymph nodes will also need to be removed along with the cancer

  • Chemotherapy – this treatment option uses anti-cancer drugs which are either injected into your veins or given orally. These drugs aim to kill cancer cells around your body.

  • Radiation therapy – Radiation therapy involves using high energy rays in order to kill cancer cells.

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers various support services to help with managing or recovering from the disease or condition. These include but are not limited to nutrition, physiotherapy, rehabilitation, specialized clinics and some patient support groups. Your doctor or nurse will advise you accordingly.

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers financial assistance to those who are in need and fulfil the eligibility criteria. For further information, you can contact the Patient Welfare Department. You can find the contact number of the Patient Welfare Department in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.

The financial counselling staff is available during office hours, at the main PBSD (Patient Business Services Department), to answer your financial queries on treatments’ costs and authorize admissions on partial deposit as per hospital policies allow. The financial counsellor in the emergency room is open 24/7. You can find the contact number of the Patient Business Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.

Your doctor and or nurse will give you specific instructions about the prescribed medication. Please ensure that you take or use the prescribed medicine as advised. It can be dangerous to your health if you self-prescribe. Please inform the doctor or nurse beforehand if you have experienced any adverse reactions to any medications in the past. If you experience any symptoms of drug poisoning, overdose or severe reaction please contact the Pharmacy Service at The Aga Khan University Hospital immediately. You can find the contact number of the Pharmacy Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.                        

The information provided on our website is for educational purposes and not intended to be a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or other healthcare professional provider.