A woman’s cervix (the opening of the uterus at the top of the vagina) is covered by a thin layer of tissue made up of cells. Healthy cells grow, divide, and are replaced as needed. Cervical Cancer of the cervix occurs when these cells change. Cancer cells divide more rapidly. They may grow into deeper cell layers or spread to other organs. The cancer cells eventually form a mass of tissue called a tumor.
It often takes several years for cervical cancer to develop. During this time, the cells on or around the cervix become abnormal. The cell changes that occur before cancer is present are called dysplasia or cervical intraepithelial neo-plasia (CIN)
The main cause of cervical cancer is human papillomavirus (HPV) infection.
There are many types of HPV. Some types of HPV, called high-risk types, can cause cancer of the anus, cervix, vulva, vagina, and penis. They also can cause cancer of the head and neck. Other types have been linked to genital warts.
Yes. The Pap test checks for abnormal cell changes of the cervix. This allows early treatment of the abnormal cells so that they do not become cancer. An HPV test also is available. It is used along with the Pap test to screen for cervical cancer in some women and as a follow-up test when a woman has an abnormal Pap test result.
The first signs may be abnormal bleeding, spotting, or watery discharge from the vagina. Menstrual bleeding may be heavier than usual, and bleeding may occur after sex. Signs of advanced cancer can include pelvic pain, problems urinating, and swollen legs. If the cancer has spread to nearby organs or the lymph nodes, the tumors can affect how those organs work. For instance, a tumor might press on your bladder or block blood flow in a vein.
If your health care provider suspects that you have cancer of the cervix, a biopsymay be done. For certain abnormal Pap test results that require treatment, the abnormal cervical tissue may be removed and sent to a lab to be studied. If cervical cancer is diagnosed, your health care provider will assess the size of the cancer and the extent (if any) to which the disease has spread. This process may include
The following tests:
A pelvic exam (which may include a rectal exam) – An examination in which your health care provider checks the uterus, ovaries, and other organs near the cervix.
Cystoscopy- A test in which the inside of the urethra and bladder are studied with a lighted devic.
Colonoscopy- A test in which the entire colon is examined with a slender, lighted Instrument called a colonoscope.
What is staging?
Staging is the process of finding out how much the cancer has spread. Most types of cancer have stages from I to IV. The lower the number, the less the cancer has spread.
Invasive cancer of the cervix is treated with surgery (hysterectomy), radiation therapy, and chemotherapy (the use of cancer-killing drugs). The type of treatment chosen depends on the cancer stage. You may receive more than one type of treatment.
Your health care provider may suggest more frequent cervical cancer screening for the first few years after treatment to make sure that all the cancer cells were removed. Even if your cervix has been removed to treat your cancer, you still need cervical cancer screening. Cells are taken from the upper vagina instead of the cervix.