We often hear the phrase “cervix” at the gynecologist during routine visits, in conversations surrounding pregnancy and childbirth, but there is not always an emphasis on its importance, its sensitivity, and the diseases that may develop in it. This article will provide concise and focused information, on one organ: the cervix.
What is the role of the cervix?
The cervix is a tubular organ that connects the uterus to the vagina. The outer opening of the cervix, in the vaginal area, is blocked by a frequently regenerating viscous mucus, to prevent contaminants from entering the uterus. During ovulation, this mucosa becomes more fluid and less thick, to allow the passage of sperm to fertilize the egg.
Where exactly is it located?
The cervix is actually the “last stop” in the path of bacteria and harmful infections from the outside world into the uterus, and as such its, daily and the main function is to protect the uterus from these agents, and so it constantly renews its mucosa. The cervix is a kind of guard that monitors and filters out unwanted guests. There are times when it opens a little, when it is in preparation to complete a mechanism for intercourse, during menstruation, pregnancy or childbirth:
During orgasm the cervix moves and expands on the outside (some believe this happens to allow the seminal fluid to be attracted to the inside of the uterus thus aiding in fertilization of the egg).
During menstruation, the lining of the uterus that thickens in preparation for ovulation falls off, and to eject it, the cervix opens slightly. Some believe that the cause of the infamous menstrual cramps is the contractions of the cervix. After menstruation, the function of the cervix is to protect the uterus from unwanted infections and bacteria and this, as we have noted, is done by the constant renewal of the lining.
When the egg is fertilized and pregnancy develops, the cervix becomes completely opaque, like a kind of antibacterial stopper, to protect the fetus from various contaminants and also prevents fluid from leaving the uterus to ensure the fetuses’ protection. This “stopper” is kept closed throughout pregnancy and falls off before or after birth.
During birth, strong contractions of the cervix occur and it expands to a diameter of 10 inches, to allow the baby to come out of its mother’s womb.
Infections and diseases of the cervix
The cervix is in direct contact with the vagina and is therefore exposed to various contaminants, which are usually transmitted through sexual communication:
- Gonorrhea (gonorrhea)
- Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
As a result of these contaminants, inflammation, sometimes chronic, of the cervix may develop, and the human papillomavirus can even result in cervical cancer.
Cervical cancer and human papillomavirus (HPV)
Almost 100% of cervical cancers are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). Prior to the development of cancer itself, pre-cancerous changes in the cervix occur in the area, which can be detected and treated by routine follow-up at the gynecologist. These pre-cancerous changes are called CIN (Cervical Intraepithelial Neoplasia), or intraepithelial neoplasia of the cervix. Without proper treatment, these lesions can become cancerous, causing great suffering to a woman and endangering her life.
First of all, it is important to practice safe sex if one does not know if the partner is carrying a sexually transmitted disease, a condom should always be used during intercourse in these situations!
A routine PAP test (cervical surface) should be performed by a gynecologist, once every one to three years to rule out or diagnose changes that occur in the cervix in the early stages. Such changes, which may develop in the cervix, can indicate, not in all cases, cervical cancer and early detection can be very helpful in treatment and recovery.
Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Vaccine –
Extremely Important! This vaccine should be performed even before becoming sexually active, in order to prevent infection with the virus and as a result – to prevent the development of various infections and of course to prevent cervical cancer ahead of time.