Cervical Cancer Cells – Histology and Diagnosis

70 percent of cervical cancer is caused by the infection spread by two strains (type 16 and type 18) of the human papillomavirus (HPV). According to National Cancer Institutes, 12,200 new cases of it were reported in 2010 in the United States. 4,210 died owing to this disease.

Cervical cancer cells

are detected through a diagnostic technique called the Pap test, where the cells are scraped from the organ cervix and studied under microscope in detail. This process is technically called histology. This article tries to gain further insight on this subject.

Cells are the building blocks of life. They unite to form tissues and collection of tissues form an organ in the body. Every cell in the body has a nucleus. Inside this component, there are genetic materials called DNA and RNA molecules inherited by us from our parents. The DNA molecules form a chemical structure called the chromosomes. Collection of these chromosomes forms a gene.

The chromosomes are chemical instructions followed by the cells in order to carry out their tasks. The RNA molecules read the genes and produce substances called proteins which actually manifest the functions of the cells. Change in the structure of the chromosomes owing to the change in the DNA molecules from their precise sites of location cause cancer.

The means which cause these alterations are the causes or risk factors of cancer and the process of alteration of the DNA molecules from their respective sites in the genes is called mutation.

What is the Histology of Cervical Cancer Cells?

The cervix is an organ in the pelvis connecting the uterus to the vagina. In most of the cases, cancer affects the cells present on the surface of this organ. In other cases, the ailment develops in the cells present inside the organ. Though all the causes of this cancer are not known completely, the presence of HPV DNA is found in almost all cases.

The HPV is an onco-virus which implies that this micro-organism can cause cancer. According to another classification, it is a DNA virus. It means that this virus changes the DNA genetic material inside the infected cells in order to turn them malignant. This is achieved by interfering with the actions of the vital tumor-suppression gene p53.

The effect of this interference is that the infected cells move to a new stage of their cell division process called the S-phase. In this new phase, the virus easily replicates its gene by changing the DNA of the cervix cells.

After this mutation, the cervical cells develop all the characteristic properties of cancer like uncontrolled growth, no programmed death, interference with the normal functions of the surrounding healthy cells.

Finally in the advanced stages, they spread the disease to fresh and remote locations of the body, technically known as metastasis. By this stage, the disease with its origin in the cervix spreads to other organs like lungs and abdomen.

This is the mechanism of infection irrespective of the type of cervical cancer cells infected by HPV. Cancer cells of the cervix present on its surface are called the Squamous carcinoma cells found in 80-85 percent cases. The infected cells present in the interior of the organ are called the Adenocarcinoma.

How Cervical Cancer Cells are Diagnosed?

While the Pep test is an effective screening test, a technique called colposcopy biopsy diagnoses the presence of either squamous carcinoma or adenocarcinoma cancer cells in the cervix.

The actual process of transformation of the healthy cervix cells on the surface owing to the infection is known as Cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN). Techniques like Loop electrical excision procedure and conization are carried out further on the cells of cervical cancer when biopsy confirms CIN. The state in itself is not cancer and can be managed very effectively.

In fact vaccination against HPV along with early screening has brought down incidences of this cancer by 50 percent in developed countries. When diagnosed early, surgery removes the chunk of malignant cervix cells. In the advanced stage, chemotherapy and radiation therapy are applied to kill them.

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