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
Cervical cancer is one of the most common cancers in women worldwide. But in the United States and other countries where cervical cancer screening is routine, this cancer is not so common.1
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
Most adults have been infected with HPV at some time. An infection may go away on its own. But sometimes it can cause genital warts or lead to cervical cancer. That's why it's important for women 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.
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, such as bleeding between menstrual periods, after sex, or after menopause.
- Pain in the lower belly or pelvis.
- Pain during
- Vaginal discharge that isn't normal.
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.
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.
Finding out that you have cancer can change your life. You may feel like your world has turned upside down and you have lost all control. Talking with family, friends, or a counselor can really help. Ask your doctor about support groups. Or call the American Cancer Society (1-800-227-2345) or visit its website at www.cancer.org.