Cervical cancer occurs in the cells of the cervix — the lower part of the uterus that connects to the vagina. The most common type of cervical cancer is squamous cell carcinoma which begins in squamous cells (thin, flat skin cells) on the wall of the cervix. However, some cervical cancers are aden
Early-stage cervical cancer generally produces no signs or symptoms. Signs and symptoms of more-advanced cervical cancer include:
- Vaginal bleeding after intercourse, between periods or after menopause
- Watery, bloody vaginal discharge that may be heavy and have a foul odor
- Pelvic pain or pain during intercourse
It isn't clear what causes cervical cancer, but it's certain that various strains of the human papilloma virus (HPV), a sexually transmitted infection, plays a role. When exposed to HPV, a woman's immune system typically prevents the virus from doing harm. In a small group of women, however, the virus survives for years, contributing to the process that causes some cells on the surface of the cervix to become cancer cells. HPV is very common, and most women with the virus never develop cervical cancer. This means other factors, such as environment and lifestyle choices, also determine whether a woman will develop cervical cancer.
Treatment for cervical cancer depends on several factors, such as the stage of the cancer, other health problems the patient may have and the patient’s preferences. Surgery, radiation, chemotherapy or a combination of the three may be used.
ScreeningCervical cancer that is detected early is more likely to be treated successfully. Most guidelines suggest that women begin screening for cervical cancer and precancerous changes at age 21. Women can reduce their risk of developing cervical cancer by having screening tests and receiving a vaccine that protects against HPV infection. Screening tests include the PAP test and the HPV DNA test.
SurgeryEarly-stage cervical cancer is typically treated with surgery to remove the uterus (hysterectomy). A hysterectomy can cure early-stage cervical cancer and prevent recurrence. Minimally invasive surgery may be an option for early-stage cervical cancer.
RadiationRadiation therapy uses high-powered energy beams, such as X-rays or protons, to kill cancer cells. Radiation therapy may be used alone or with chemotherapy before surgery to shrink a tumor or after surgery to kill any remaining cancer cells. Radiation may be given externally, internally or both.
ChemotherapyChemotherapy uses medications, usually injected into a vein, to kill cancer cells. Low doses of chemotherapy are often combined with radiation therapy, since chemotherapy may enhance the effects of the radiation. Higher doses of chemotherapy are used to control advanced cervical cancer that may not be curable.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides information, US statistics, and resources related to cervical cancer, including information about low-cost screening in the United States. Globe-athon to End Women's Cancer offers a collection of educational video lectures for the general public in which experts cover a variety of topics related to women's cancer. The National Cancer Institute (NCI) is a reliable source for in-depth information about many cancers including prevention, screening, treatment and research for cervical cancer.
Cervical cancer is one of the most preventable and treatable forms of cancer, yet it remains one of the most common causes of death for women. Nearly 90% of deaths from cervical cancer each year are of women living in low- and middle- income countries. Global Cancer Observatory Fact Sheet on worldwide incidence, mortality and prevalence of cervical cancer. The Global Cancer Observatory is an interactive web-based platform presenting global cancer statistics to inform cancer control and research. It uses data from the International Agency for Research on Cancer which is a specialized agency of the World Health Organization. Cervical Cancer Free Coalition: Global Crisis of Cervical Cancer World Health Organization (WHO) Initiative to Eliminate Cervical Cancer