Cervical cancer is a disease in which cancer cells grow in the cervix. The cervix is the lower, narrow part of the uterus. It connects the uterus with the vagina.
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Cancer occurs when cells in the body divide without control or order. Normally, cells divide in a regulated manner. If cells keep dividing uncontrollably when new cells are not needed, a mass of tissue forms, called a growth or tumor. The term cancer refers to malignant growths. These growths can invade nearby tissues. Cancer that has invaded nearby tissues can then spread to other parts of the body.
Research suggests that some sexually transmitted viruses, like
It is not clear exactly what causes changes in the cells, but is probably a combination of genetics and environment.
Cervical cancer is more common in women over 25 years old. Other factors that may increase your chance of cervical cancer include:
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:
There may also be pelvic discomfort or a backache.
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. This will include an examination of the vagina and cervix.
Tests may include:
Imaging tests may include:
The physical exam combined with all of your test results, will help to determine the stage of cancer you have. Staging is used to guide your treatment plan. Like other cancers, cervical cancer is staged from I-IV. Stage I is a very localized cancer, while stage IV indicates a spread to other parts of the body.
Treatment depends on the stage of the cancer and may include:
The cancerous tumor, nearby tissue, and possibly nearby lymph nodes may be removed. The doctor may remove only the tumor and nearby normal tissue if the tumor is contained within the cervix. In some cases, a
If the cancer is at a later stage, more tissue must be removed. This may include the ovaries and fallopian tubes.
This therapy may also be used to help control pain and bleeding when a cure is no longer possible.
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 Pap tests done. Another good approach is to reduce your risk of exposure to the HPV virus. There are currently 2 methods to do this:
The Pap test is used to screen for cervical cancer. It is also used to detect cervical dysplasia. A sample of cells is collected from the cervix to be tested. HPV can also be screened by testing the same sample of cells.
If you are a healthy woman, many professional health organizations offer these recommendations for screening: