Cervical cancer starts in the cervix, the lower part of the uterus that connects the womb to the vagina.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports worldwide, cervical cancer is the third most common type of cancer in women. It’s much less common in the United States because of the routine use of Pap smears.
The exact cause of cervical cancer is unknown. The Mayo Clinic says, research shows human papillomavirus (HPV) plays a role. Evidence of HPV is found in nearly all cervical cancers. However, HPV is very common and most women with HPV never develop cervical cancer. This means, other risk factors such as genetic makeup, environment or lifestyle choices, also determine whether someone develops cervical cancer.
Cancer.org says cervical cancers cells don’t suddenly change into cancer. Normal cervical cells gradually develop pre-cancerous changes that turn into cancer. These changes can be detected by the Pap test and is 100 percent treatable. That’s why it’s imperative for women to get regular Pap smears.
Squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma are the two main types of cervical cancers. The most common is squamous cell carcinoma. Very rare cancers can also occur in other cells in the cervix.
Typically, early cervical cancer has no symptoms. NIH says symptoms include abnormal periods; vaginal bleeding between periods, after intercourse, or after menopause; continuous vaginal discharge,which may be pale, watery, pink, brown, bloody, or foul-smelling; and pelvic pain or pain during intercourse.
Unfortunately, it can take years for precancerous changes to turn into cervical cancer. Patients with cervical cancer tend to have problems when the cancer is advanced and has spread.
NIH says risk factors for cervical cancer include having sex before age 18, multiple sexual partners, not getting regular Pap smears; sexual partners who have multiple partners or who participate in high-risk sexual activities; having other sexually transmitted diseases and a weakened immune system.
Surgery for early cervical cancer includes cryotheraphy, laser therapy and a procedure that uses electricity to remove abnormal tissue.