Cancer is a disease in whichcells in the body grow out of control.
Cancer is always named for thepartofthebodywhereitstarts,evenifitspreads to other body partslater.
When cancer starts in thecervix,itiscalledcervicalcancer.Thecervix is the lower, narrow endofthe uterus. The cervix connectsthevagina (the birth canal) to theupperpart of the uterus. The uterus (orwomb) is where a baby growswhen a woman ispregnant. Cervical cancer is the easiestgynecologic cancer to preventwithregularscreeningtestsandfollow-up.Italsoishighlycurablewhenfound and treatedearly.
All women are at risk for cervicalcancer. It occurs most often inwomen over age 30. Each year, approximately 12,000 women intheUnited States get cervicalcancer. The human papillomavirus (HPV)isthe main cause of cervical cancer.HPV is a common virus that ispassedfromonepersontoanotherduringsex.Atleasthalfofsexuallyactive people will have HPV atsome point in their lives, but few womenwill get cervicalcancer.
Early on, cervical cancermay not cause signs andsymptoms. Advanced cervical cancer maycause bleeding or dischargefromthe vagina that is not normal foryou, such as bleeding after sex.If you have any of thesesigns, see your doctor. They may becaused by something other thancancer,buttheonlywaytoknowis to see yourdoctor.
Are there tests that canprevent cervical canceror find itearly?
There are two tests that caneither help prevent cervical cancer or find itearly:
ThePaptestisoneofthemostreliable and effective cancerscreening tests available.Youshould start getting regularPap testsatage21.IfyourPaptestresults are normal, yourdoctormay say that you will notneed another Pap test for threeyears.
The HPV test can be used toscreen for cervical cancer alongwiththePaptestinwomenaged30 years and older. It also is usedto provide more informationwhen women aged 21 years and olderhave unclear Pap testresults.
Ifyouareage30orolder,youmaychoosetohaveanHPVtestalongwith the Pap test. If theresultsarenormal,yourchanceofgettingcervical cancer in the nextfewyears is very low.
Almost all cervical cancers arecaused by HPV. You are morelikelyto get HPV if you started havingsex at an early age, or if you oryour partner have had sex with severalothers.However,anywomanwhohas ever had sex is at risk forHPV.
In addition to having HPV, thesethings also can increase your riskofcervicalcancer:
If your doctor says that you havecervical cancer, ask to be referred toa gynecologic oncologist—a doctorwho has been trained to treatcancerslike this. This doctor will work withyou to create a treatmentplan.