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This topic talks about the
testing, diagnosis, and treatment of cervical cancer. For general information
about abnormal Pap test results, see the topic
Abnormal Pap Test.
Cervical cancer occurs
when abnormal cells on the
cervix grow out of control. The cervix is the lower
part of the uterus that opens into the vagina. Cervical cancer can often be successfully treated when it's found early. It is usually found at a very early stage through
What causes cervical cancer?
Most cervical cancer
is caused by a virus called
human papillomavirus, or HPV. You can get HPV by
sexual contact with someone who has it. There are many
types of the HPV virus. Not all types of HPV cause cervical cancer. Some of
genital warts, but other types may not cause any
You can have HPV for years and not know it. It stays in
your body and can lead to cervical cancer years after you were infected. This
is why it is important for you to have regular Pap tests. A Pap test can find
changes in cervical cells before they turn into cancer. If you treat these cell
changes, you may prevent cervical cancer.
What are the symptoms?
Abnormal cervical cell
changes rarely cause symptoms. But you may have symptoms if those cell changes
grow into cervical cancer. Symptoms of cervical cancer may include:
- Bleeding from the vagina that is not normal,
or a change in your
menstrual cycle that you can't explain.
- Bleeding when something comes in contact with your cervix, such as
during sex or when you put in a diaphragm.
- Pain during
Vaginal discharge that is tinged with blood.
How is cervical cancer diagnosed?
As part of your
regular pelvic exam, you should have a Pap test. During a Pap test, the doctor
scrapes a small sample of cells from the surface of the cervix to look for cell
changes. If a Pap test shows abnormal cell changes, your doctor may do other
tests to look for precancerous or cancer cells on your cervix.
Your doctor may also do a Pap test and take a sample of tissue (biopsy) if you have symptoms of cervical cancer, such
as bleeding after sex.
How is it treated?
The treatment for most
stages of cervical cancer includes:
Depending on how much the cancer has grown, you may have
one or more treatments. And you may have a combination of treatments. If you have a hysterectomy, you won't be able to have children. But a hysterectomy isn't always needed, especially when cancer is found very early.