The Health Index
The cervix, or cervix uteri, is the lower part of the uterus. It connects the uterus to the vagina and ends in the cervix (portio), which protrudes into the vagina. At the cervix is the transition area between the mucous membrane of the cervical canal and the mucous membrane that covers the outer parts of the cervix. This area is particularly susceptible to cell changes. If these are malignant, this is called cervical cancer.
What are the causes?
An infection human papilloma viruses (HPV) is a prerequisite for the development of cervical cancer. The viruses are mainly transmitted during sexual intercourse. In most cases, the immune system makes short work of the pathogens and nothing happens.
However, sometimes the viruses survive the immune response and persist in the cells of the cervical mucosa. This can lead to cell changes and in the long term to cancer. Cervical cancer is therefore the rare consequence of an infection. Between the ages of 20 and 34, a so-called Pap test is carried out, in which a smear from the cervix is examined for tissue changes. From the age of 35, a smear test is taken every three to five years (or sooner if you have had an abnormal result before) and is checked for HPV.
If the result is abnormal, the patient will be referred to a specialist clinic for further checks. If cervical cancer is diagnosed, the tumour is surgically removed. In addition to surgery, radiation and/or chemotherapy may be required. The viruses are mainly transmitted during sexual intercourse. Most sexually active women become infected with the virus at least once in their lives. Unprotected sexual intercourse with frequently changing partners considerably increases the risk of infection. Once an HPV infection has occurred, it cannot be completely ruled out that the same virus will re-infect.
What are the symptoms?
The malignant changes in the cervix do not usually cause any symptoms at first. This is why it is important for women aged 20 and over to have the regular check-up at their GP surgery.
Symptoms that can potentially occur with cervical cancer:
Bleeding after sexual intercourse
Bleeding or spotting outside the menstrual cycle
Bloody, often foul-smelling discharge
Pain during sex
Pain in the pelvic area
Although in most cases these symptoms are more likely to be caused by inflammation or hormonal disorders, they should be checked out by a doctor.
How can a nutrition practitioner help?
If you have been diagnosed with cervical cancer and are being treated, your nutrition practitioner will work alongside your medical team. Knowing how, what and when to eat while on cancer treatment can have a considerable impact on how you feel during treatment.
A nutritional approach always depends on the individual case but may focus on diet and lifestyle interventions generally used to prevent or manage inflammation, which may help reduce pain and speed up recovery. A nutrition practitioner will ask questions about your overall health and health history, diet, lifestyle and exercise habits.
They will look at your food diary to see where there may be room for improvement. Your nutrition practitioner may also recommend functional testing. They will then develop a customised diet, supplement and lifestyle plan for you.