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Cervical Cancer Health Center

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Description of the Evidence

    Background

    Natural history, incidence, and mortality

    Recommended Related to Cervical Cancer

    Stage Information for Cervical Cancer

    Cervical carcinoma has its origins at the squamous-columnar junction whether in the endocervical canal or on the portion of the cervix. The precursor lesion is dysplasia or carcinoma in situ (cervical intraepithelial neoplasia [CIN]), which can subsequently become invasive cancer. This process can be quite slow. Longitudinal studies have shown that in untreated patients with in situcervical cancer, 30% to 70% will develop invasive carcinoma over a period of 10 to 12 years. However, in about 10% of...

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    In the United States in 2013, it is estimated that 12,340 cases of invasive cervical cancer will be diagnosed and that 4,030 women will die of the disease.[1] These rates had been improving steadily. However, from 2005 to 2009, rates were stable in women younger than 50 years and decreased by 3.0% per year in women aged 50 years and older. From 2005 to 2009, mortality rates were stable among women of all ages.[1] This improvement has been attributed largely to screening with the Papanicolaou (Pap) test.

    Invasive squamous carcinoma of the cervix results from the progression of preinvasive precursor lesions called cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN), or dysplasia. CIN is histologically graded into mild dysplasia (CIN 1), moderate dysplasia (CIN 2), or severe dysplasia (CIN 3). Not all of these lesions progress to invasive cancer; many mild and moderate lesions regress. A further categorization, the Bethesda system, is based on cytologic findings: atypical squamous cells of undetermined significance (ASCUS) or cannot rule out low-grade squamous intraepithelial lesions (LSIL), LSIL (consisting of cytologic atypia and CIN 1), and high-grade squamous intraepithelial lesions (HSIL), primarily CIN 2–3 plus carcinoma in situ.[2]

    The rate at which invasive cancer develops from CIN is usually slow, measured in years and perhaps decades.[3] This long natural history provides the opportunity for screening to effectively detect this process during the preinvasive phase, thus allowing early treatment and cure. Because many of these preinvasive lesions (especially LSIL) would have never progressed to invasive cancer,[4,5,6] screening also runs the risk of leading to treatment for women who do not need to be treated.

    Human papillomavirus (HPV) is an oncogenic virus and the etiologic agent of cervical cancer and related premalignant disease. HPV is transmitted by sexual contact. Sexually inactive women rarely develop cervical cancer, while sexual activity at an early age with multiple sexual partners is a strong risk factor.[7] Nearly all women with invasive cervical cancer have evidence of HPV infection.[8,9,10,11] Most women with HPV infection, however, never develop cervical cancer; thus this infection is necessary but not sufficient for development of cancer.[12]

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