Cervical Cancer

Cervical cancer is a disease in which cancer cells grow in the cervix. The cervix is the lower, narrow part of the uterus also known as the womb. It connects the uterus with the vagina. Cancer occurs when cells in the body divide without control or order. With cervical cancer, epithelial cervix cells that line the cervical canal divide without control or order. Normally, cells divide in a controlled manner. If cells keep dividing uncontrollably, a mass of tissue forms, called a growth or tumor. The term cancer refers to malignant tumors. Malignant tumors can invade nearby tissue and spread to other parts of the body. A benign tumor does not invade or spread.

  • Causes


    Research suggests that some sexually transmitted viruses like
    human papilloma virus (HPV) can cause cervical cells to begin the changes that can lead to cancer.

  • Definition

    Cervical cancer is a disease in which cancer cells grow in the cervix. The cervix is the lower, narrow part of the uterus also known as the womb. It connects the uterus with the vagina.

    Cancer occurs when cells in the body divide without control or order. With cervical cancer, epithelial cervix cells that line the cervical canal divide without control or order. Normally, cells divide in a controlled manner. If cells keep dividing uncontrollably, a mass of tissue forms, called a growth or tumor. The term cancer refers to malignant tumors. Malignant tumors can invade nearby tissue and spread to other parts of the body. A benign tumor does not invade or spread.

    Cervical Cancer
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  • Diagnosis

    Your doctor will need to examine your vagina and cervix. This can be done with:

    • Colposcopy
    • Biopsy

    After cervical cancer is found, more tests are done to find out if the cancer has spread beyond the cervix, and, if so, to what extent. This process is called staging, which may be done with:

    • Imaging studies, including:
      • CT scan
      • MRI scan
      • Positron emission tomography scan
    • Surgical staging
    • Sentinel lymph node biopsy

  • Prevention

    Finding and treating precancerous tissue in the cervix is the best way to prevent cervical cancer. Talk to your doctor about when you should have pelvic exams and Pap tests done. Another good approach is to reduce your risk of exposure to the HPV virus. There are currently two methods to do this:

    • Safe sexual practice—Limit the number of sexual partners and use latex condoms.
    • HPV vaccines—The vaccines protect you against some types of HPV. One vaccine, called Gardasil, is used to prevent cervical cancer by protecting against four types of HPV. Another vaccine, called Cervarix, is also approved for prevention by protecting against two HPV types. The vaccines are routinely given to girls aged 11-12 years old. A catch-up vaccine is given to young women who haven't been vaccinated.

  • Risk Factors

    Cervical cancer is more common in women over 25 years old. Factors that may increase your risk of cervical cancer include:

    • Infection of the cervix with HPV—the main risk factor for cervical cancer

    • History of
      cervical dysplasia, which is a precancerous condition

    • Being a woman whose mother took the drug
      diethylstilbestrol
      (DES)
      during pregnancy
    • HIV/AIDS
    • Unprotected intercourse
    • Multiple sexual partners
    • Sexual activity prior to age 18
    • Smoking
    • First pregnancy prior to age 20
    • Breast cancer chemotherapy
    • Long-term use of hormonal contraceptives

  • Symptoms

    Symptoms usually do not appear until the abnormal cells become cancerous. Then, they invade nearby tissue. When this happens, the most common symptom is abnormal bleeding, which may include:

    • Bleeding between regular menstrual periods
    • Bleeding after sexual intercourse, douching, or a pelvic exam
    • Menstrual bleeding that lasts longer and is heavier than usual

    • Vaginal bleeding after
      menopause
    • Increased vaginal discharge that is not blood

    There may also be pelvic discomfort or backache.

  • Treatment

    Treatment depends on the stage of the cancer and may include:


    If you are diagnosed with cervical cancer, follow your doctor's
    instructions.