Cervical Cancer (CERVIX)
Cancer is a disease in which cells in the body grow out of control. Cancer is always named for the part of the body where it starts, even if it spreads to other body parts later. When cancer starts in the cervix, it is called cervical cancer. The cervix is the lower part of the uterus, the place where a baby grows during pregnancy. Most of the uterus lies in the pelvis, but part of the cervix is located in the vagina, where it connects the uterus with the vagina. Cancer of the cervix occurs when the cells of the cervix change in a way that leads to abnormal growth and invasion of other tissues or organs of the body. Like all cancers, cancer of the cervix is much more likely to be cured if it is detected early and treated immediately.
All women are at risk for cervical cancer. It occurs most often in women over age 30. The human papillommavirus (HPV) is the main cause of cervical cancer. HPV is a common virus that is passed from one person to another during sex. At least half of sexually active people will have HPV at some point in their lives, but few women will get cervical cancer. You're at higher risk if you smoke, have many children, use birth control pills for a long time, or have HIV infection.
Cervical cancer may not cause any symptoms at first, but later, you may have pelvic pain or bleeding from the vagina. It usually takes several years for normal cells in the cervix to turn into cancer cells. Cervical cancer does not usually cause pain, although it may in very advanced stages. Abnormal vagina discharge also may occur with cervical cancer. Your health care provider can find abnormal cells by doing a Pap test - examining cells from the cervix under a microscope. By getting regular Pap tests and pelvic exams you can find and treat changing cells before they turn into cancer.
Treatment of cervical cancer is directed at preventing precancerous cells from becoming cancerous cells. This is usually a step-by-step process, involving the removal of cells or tissue to diagnose cancer and to find out how far it has invaded. If the deepest cells removed by biopsy were normal, no further treatment may be needed. If the deepest cells removed by biopsy were cancerous or precancerous, this means the cancer has invaded farther than the biopsy. In these cases, treatment generally starts with removal of additional tissues. As these tissues are removed, they are checked for dysplastic change to be sure all the precancerous or cancerous cells have been removed from the body or are otherwise destroyed.