What Is Cervical Cancer (Cervix Cancer)?
According to the American Cancer Society, more than 12,000 women are diagnosed with invasive cervical cancer each year in the United States. Cervical cancer is typically detected when doctors do a biopsy after a suspicious Pap smear or pelvic exam. Mortality rates for cervical cancer have declined sharply as Pap screenings have become more prevalent.
Cervical cancer occurs most often in women over the age of 40. It is different from cancer that begins in other parts of the uterus and requires different treatment. Most cervical cancers are squamous cell carcinomas and adenocarcinomas.
We have extensive experience treating cervix cancer and offer comprehensive, individualized treatment plans for your unique needs.
Cervical cancer causes and risk factors
The following have been suggested as risk factors for cervical cancer:
- Infection with the human papillomavirus (HPV): Infection with HPV is most often the result of unprotected sex.
- Infection with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) or other condition that weakens the immune system. HIV is the precursor to AIDS.
- Smoking: Women who smoke are nearly twice as likely as nonsmokers to have cervical cancer.
- Age: The diagnosis of cancer of the cervix generally occurs in midlife. However, cervical cancer can occur at any age.
- Having sexual intercourse before the age of 18
- Having many sexual partners, and having partners who have had sexual intercourse at a young age and/or have had many partners themselves
- Previous diagnosis of chlamydia: New research has shown that chlamydia, the most common sexually transmitted disease in the U.S., may increase a woman’s risk of developing cervical cancer.
Stages of cervical cancer
Some researchers estimate that non-invasive cervical cancer is nearly four times more common than invasive cervical cancer.
- Pre-malignant conditions: Premalignant conditions of the cervix are identified as the presence of cells that appear to be abnormal, but are not cancerous at the present time. However, the appearance of these abnormal cells may be the first evidence of cancer that develops years later. Premalignant changes of the cervix usually do not cause pain and, in general, do not cause any symptoms. They are detected with a Pap test.
- High-grade squamous intraepithelial lesions (SIL) means there are a large number of precancerous cells on the surface of the cervix. The cells often do not become cancerous for many years. High-grade lesions may also be called moderate or severe dysplasia, or cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN) 2 or 3. They develop most often in women between the ages of 30 and 40, but can occur at any age.
- Invasive cervical cancer: If abnormal cells on the surface of the cervix spread deeper into the cervix, or to other tissues or organs, the disease is then called cervical cancer, or invasive cervical cancer.
Signs and Symptoms of Cervical Cancer
Symptoms of cervical cancer usually do not appear until abnormal cervical cells become cancerous and invade nearby tissue.
The most common symptom is abnormal bleeding, which may:
- Start and stop between regular menstrual periods.
- Occur after sexual intercourse, douching or a pelvic exam.
Other symptoms may include:
- Heavier menstrual bleeding, which may last longer than usual
- Bleeding after menopause
- Increased vaginal discharge
- Pain during intercourse
The symptoms of cervical cancer may resemble other medical conditions or problems. Always consult your doctor for a diagnosis.