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Cervical Cancer Treatment (PDQ®): Treatment - Health Professional Information [NCI] - General Information About Cervical Cancer

Cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer in women worldwide, and it has the fourth highest mortality rate among cancers in women.[1] Most cases of cervical cancer are preventable by routine screening and by treatment of precancerous lesions. As a result, most of the cervical cancer cases are diagnosed in women who live in regions with inadequate screening protocols.

Incidence and Mortality

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Under the Affordable Care Act, many health insurance plans will provide free women’s preventive services, including mammograms, birth control and well-woman visits. Learn more.

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Estimated new cases and deaths from cervical (uterine cervix) cancer in the United States in 2014:[2]

  • New cases: 12,360.
  • Deaths: 4,020.

Anatomy

The uterine cervix is contiguous with the uterine body, and it acts as the opening to the body of the uterus. The uterine cervix is a cylindrical, fibrous organ that is an average of 3 to 4 cm in length. The portio of the cervix is the part of the cervix that is visible on vaginal inspection. The opening of the cervix is termed the external os. The os is the beginning of the endocervical canal, which forms the inner aspect of the cervix. At the upper aspect of the endocervical canal is the internal os, a narrowing of the endocervical canal. The narrowing marks the transition from the cervix to the uterine body. The endocervical canal beyond the internal os is termed the endometrial canal.

The cervix is lined by two types of epithelial cells: squamous cells at the outer aspect, and columnar, glandular cells along the inner canal. The transition between squamous cells and columnar cells is an area termed the squamo-columnar junction. Most of precancerous and cancerous changes arise in this zone.

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Pathogenesis

Cervical carcinoma has its origins at the squamous-columnar junction; it can involve the outer squamous cells, the inner glandular cells, or both. The precursor lesion is dysplasia: cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN) or adenocarcinoma in situ, which can subsequently become invasive cancer. This process can be quite slow. Longitudinal studies have shown that in patients with untreated in situ cervical cancer, 30% to 70% will develop invasive carcinoma over a period of 10 to 12 years. However, in about 10% of patients, lesions can progress from in situ to invasive in a period of less than 1 year. As it becomes invasive, the tumor breaks through the basement membrane and invades the cervical stroma. Extension of the tumor in the cervix may ultimately manifest as ulceration, exophytic tumor, or extensive infiltration of underlying tissue, including the bladder or rectum.

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