Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Cervical Cancer Health Center

Font Size
A
A
A

Cervical Cancer - Topic Overview

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 camera.gif 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 a Pap test.

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 having 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 them cause genital warts, but other types may not cause any symptoms.

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 sex.
  • 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.

Next Article:

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: October 22, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

Today on WebMD

15 Cancer Symptoms Women Ignore
FEATURE
Dna Test To Help Diagnose Cervical Cancer
VIDEO
 
cancer fighting foods
SLIDESHOW
Could Green Tea Prevent Cervical Cancer
VIDEO
 
Integrative Medicine Cancer Quiz
QUIZ
Lifestyle Tips for Depression Slideshow
SLIDESHOW
 
Screening Tests for Women
Slideshow
what is your cancer risk
HEALTH CHECK