What is cervical cancer?
Cervical cancer is cancer of the cervix. The cervix is the lower part of (opening to) your uterus (womb). It connects your uterus with your vagina.
Cervical cancer is usually caused by HPV (human papillomavirus) infection, a common virus you can get from having unprotected sex
You may have no symptoms until the cancer has grown or spread
Cervical cancer can spread to other organs near your cervix or throughout your body
Treatment can include surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy
Doctors can detect cervical cancer very early with a Pap test
Internal Female Genital Organs
What causes cervical cancer?
Cervical cancer is most commonly caused by HPV (human papillomavirus). You can get HPV from having unprotected sex. HPV also causes genital warts Genital Warts HPV is a virus that causes warts. There are many types of HPV. Some types of HPV cause warts on your skin Other types of HPV cause warts on your genitals (genital warts) Some of the types of... read more .
What are the symptoms of cervical cancer?
Early cervical cancer often has no symptoms.
The first symptom is usually:
Abnormal bleeding from your vagina, often after sex
Symptoms of later cervical cancer include:
More bleeding during periods or bleeding between periods
Bad-smelling discharge (fluid) from your vagina
Pain in your pelvic area (area below your belly and between your hips)
Lower back pain
Without treatment, cervical cancer can cause death.
How can doctors tell if I have cervical cancer?
Doctors can find cervical cancer and cervical dysplasia (pre-cancer growths) with a Pap test. A Pap test is done during a pelvic exam.
During a pelvic exam, your doctor looks inside your vagina, holding it open with a small instrument called a speculum
For a Pap test, your doctor takes some cells from your cervix using a swab
The cells are examined under a microscope
If your cells look abnormal, doctors take out a small piece of your cervix to look at under a microscope (biopsy).
If you have cervical cancer, doctors will see how large the cancer is and how far it has spread using tests like:
CT (computed tomography) scan Computed Tomography A CT scan uses a large machine shaped like a large donut to take x-rays from many angles. A computer then takes the x-rays and creates many detailed pictures of the inside of your body. Each... read more —an imaging test that takes x-rays from many angles to create a detailed picture of the inside of your body
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) MRI is a test that uses a machine with a powerful magnet to make pictures of the inside of your body. A computer creates a series of detailed pictures. Each picture looks like a slice taken... read more —an imaging test that uses a strong magnetic field to create a detailed picture of the inside of your body
How do doctors treat cervical cancer?
Treatment can include:
Early cancer that hasn't spread beyond the surface of your cervix can be taken out using surgery. Doctors only need to remove a piece of your cervix (not your whole cervix or uterus) and they do the surgery through your vagina. Procedures include:
LEEP Loop Electrical Excision Procedure Sometimes doctors recommend screening tests, which are tests that are done to look for disorders in people who have no symptoms. If women have symptoms related to the reproductive system (gynecologic... read more —a thin wire loop used with electricity to remove the cancer
A laser—this procedure can be done in your doctor's office using numbing medicine around the abnormal tissue areas first
A knife—this surgery is done in the hospital while you're asleep
These surgeries don't affect your ability to get pregnant. However, you will have to deliver your babies by C-section Cesarean Delivery (C-Section) A C-section is surgery to deliver your baby through a cut made in your belly and uterus. For a cesarean delivery, an incision is made in the abdomen and into the uterus. This incision is usually... read more .
More advanced cancer that hasn't spread far may be treated with a hysterectomy. In a hysterectomy, the doctor takes out your uterus and sometimes nearby tissue. Sometimes, doctors will do radiation therapy after the hysterectomy. If the cancer has spread, doctors may just give you radiation therapy along with chemotherapy. After radiation and chemotherapy, doctors sometimes do surgery to take out cancer that remains.
How can I prevent cervical cancer?
Cervical cancer screening is recommended for everyone with a cervix starting at age 21 to 25. Screening tests are usually done every 3 to 5 years, depending on your age and the type of test.
You can find cervical cancer before it can grow or spread by getting regular Pap tests. Another screening test is an HPV test that detects the presence of HPV, a virus that can lead to the development of genital warts, abnormal cervical cells, or cervical cancer.
You can help prevent cervical cancer by getting the HPV vaccine Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Vaccine The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine helps protect against infection by the strains of HPV that are most likely to cause the following: Cervical cancer, vaginal cancer, and vulvar cancer in... read more (shot) when you're young.
The vaccine is given in 2 or 3 doses, depending on the child's age when getting the first shot
Doctors recommend both girls and boys get the vaccine at age 11 or 12
If you didn't get the vaccine when you were 11 or 12, doctors may give it to you up until you're 27.
Adults 27 to 45 who have not been vaccinated should talk with their doctors about whether they should be vaccinated.