Cervical cancer is a cancer of the cervix, the portion of a woman’s body that connects the uterus to the vagina.
One unique thing about cervical cancer is that it’s nearly always caused by a virus known as the human papillomavirus, or HPV. A vaccine is available to prevent HPV infection.
Prevention and Screening
Because cervical cancer is rarely detectable in its early stages, regular screening tests are a valuable tool. The most common screening test for cervical cancer is a Pap test, in which a sample of cervical cells is collected and tested in a laboratory for cancerous cells and cells that could become cancer if not treated. If a larger sample is needed for testing, these cells may be removed in a procedure called a biopsy.
Another method for preventing cervical cancer is to be vaccinated against HPV before becoming sexually active. The vaccine, which protects the body against the virus that causes cervical cancer, is effective only before someone becomes infected with HPV. The vaccine is recommended for females and males between 9 and 26 years of age.
Symptoms of Cervical Cancer
In its early stages, cervical cancer usually shows now symptoms. As it progresses and the tumor grows larger, however, unusual bleeding is the primary symptom. This can include bleeding after intercourse, between menstrual periods or even after menopause. In addition, regular menstrual periods may be heavier or longer-lasting than before. Other notable symptoms of cervical cancer can include pain, particularly during sex, or increased vaginal discharge.
Cervical cancer that is diagnosed early is considered highly treatable. Surgery might be necessary to remove a cancerous tumor from the cervix. Some women choose to have a hysterectomy, which involves removing the cervix and uterus, but this is not always required. Radiation therapy and chemotherapy, treatments designed to kill cancerous cells, are two other possibilities. In some instances, radiation therapy or chemotherapy treatments might be needed after surgery to eradicate the cancer from any surrounding tissues.
SOURCES: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; U.S. National Cancer Institute.
Should women 65 and older continue cervical cancer screenings?
How often do women need to have cervical cancer screenings?
Risk of head and neck tumors tied to HPV infection jumps to 15 percent for this group, study finds
Analysis of millions of recipients finds no link to 44 different illnesses
Americans employed in smaller businesses often lack insurance coverage, study finds
New biologic could help drive down the cost of care, agency says
New advisory says women can get the screen once every 5 years, in lieu of Pap tests every 3 years
'Herd immunity' effect shows U.S. females now less likely to contract the cancer-causing virus
Who should get it, and at what age
Agency head calls persistent geographic gap a 'significant public health problem'
Report shows uninsured had lowest rates of mammograms, Pap tests and colonoscopies
Access to screening likely behind the boost, cancer experts say
Some symptoms, such as fatigue and insomnia, are still a problem long after treatment
Rates of the disease tend to be higher in this group, researcher says
But vaccine should turn the tide against virus that can cause cancer, sexual health expert says
AIDS-linked tumors predicted to decline by 2030
Still, more progress is needed and racial disparities remain, U.S. report finds
Digestive organs may be hardest hit by too much weight, study suggests
Inmates at elevated risk of developing cancer, dying from their disease, study finds
Agency recommends getting inoculated between 9 and 26 years old
Women who've been immunized still need the screen every 3 to 5 years, cancer specialists say
Rates rose when latest study excluded women who'd already undergone hysterectomy
Doctors should rule out physical causes before declaring discomfort is all in a patient's head, specialist says
There may be a 'spillover' effect when kids get other mandated immunizations, study finds
Less testing could reduce risk of false positives and save money, researchers say
Parents most receptive to messages about the shot's effectiveness, safety and the cancers it prevents, study finds
Prevents lesions that could cause cervical cancer by 50 percent, researchers say
Human papillomavirus responsible for 70 percent of cervical cancers
Majority of 39,000 annual cases are preventable, CDC says
Fewer vaccinated young women had abnormalities tied to cervical cancer
But study found just 30 minutes of exercise a week might lower chances of disease
Still, too few girls and boys getting vaccinated against the virus that causes cervical cancer, other malignancies, researchers say
Routine screening and vaccination are key to protecting women against the disease, experts say
The HPV test or the Pap test for cervical cancer screening? ACOG issues new guidelines
Researchers suggest provision allowing young adults to stay on parents' insurance linked to more screening
Immunization protects against sexually transmitted disease, certain cancers, health experts say
But, due to aging population, actual number of cancer deaths is rising
But screening rules for women changed recently, so impact of the shots remains unclear, researchers say