Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that occurs in the cells of the cervix — the lower part of the uterus that connects to the vagina. Various strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted infection, play a role in causing most cervical cancer.
You can reduce your risk of developing cervical cancer by having screening tests and receiving a vaccine that protects against HPV infection.
Early-stage cervical cancer generally produces no signs or symptoms, while more-advanced cervical cancer includes:
What causes Cervical cancer?
It isn’t clear what causes cervical cancer, but it’s certain that HPV plays a role. HPV is very common, and most people with the virus never develop cancer. This means other factors, such as your environment or your lifestyle choices, also determine whether you’ll develop cervical cancer.
The type of cervical cancer determines your prognosis and treatment. The main types of cervical cancer are:
Sometimes, both types of cells are involved in cervical cancer. Very rarely, cancer occurs in other cells in the cervix.
Risk factors for cervical cancer include:
To reduce your risk of cervical cancer:
How to detect Cervical cancer at an early stage?
Most guidelines suggest beginning screening for cervical cancer and precancerous changes at age 21.
Screening tests include:
A Pap test can detect abnormal cells in the cervix, including cancer cells and cells that show changes that increase the risk of cervical cancer.
If your doctor determines that you have cervical cancer, you’ll have further tests to determine the extent (stage) of your cancer. Your cancer’s stage is a key factor in deciding on your treatment.
Staging exams include:
Treatment for cervical cancer depends on several factors, such as the stage of the cancer, other health problems you may have and your preferences. Surgery, radiation, chemotherapy or a combination of the three may be used.
Early-stage cervical cancer is typically treated with surgery. Choice of operation depends on the size of your cancer, its stage, and your views on getting pregnant in the future.
Options might include:
Radiation therapy is often combined with chemotherapy as the primary treatment for locally advanced cervical cancers. It can also be used after surgery if there’s an increased risk that the cancer will come back. If you haven’t started menopause yet, radiation therapy might cause menopause. If you might want to consider becoming pregnant after radiation treatment, ask your doctor about ways to preserve your eggs before treatment starts.
Chemotherapy is a drug treatment that uses chemicals to kill cancer cells. It can be given through a vein or taken in pill form. Sometimes both methods are used.
For locally advanced cervical cancer, low doses of chemotherapy are often combined with radiation therapy, since chemotherapy may enhance the effects of the radiation. Higher doses of chemotherapy might be recommended to help control symptoms of very advanced cancer.
Immunotherapy is a drug treatment that helps your immune system to fight cancer. For cervical cancer, immunotherapy might be considered when the cancer is advanced and other treatments aren’t working.