Williams Cancer Institute

Cervical Cancer

WHAT IS CERVICAL CANCER?

Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that develops in the cervix which is the part that connects the body of the uterus to the vagina. There are several pre-cancerous changes that can affect the cells in the cervix such as a squamous intraepithelial lesion (SIL) and cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN). These cancers will be graded on a scale of 1-3 by the laboratory and it will define the severity. In many cases, pre-cancerous cells that are considered less serious will go away on their own without any specific treatment.

CAUSES

Although there isn’t an exact cause of cervical cancer, many genetic defects have been studied and reflect a direct link to cancer forming. If DNA mutations occur, there can be some genes that affect the growth of certain cells leading to cancer.

SYMPTOMS

Some most common symptoms of cervical cancer include the following:

-Abnormal vaginal discharge

-Abnormal vaginal bleeding

-Pain during intercourse

-Pelvic pain

RISK FACTORS

Along with many other cancers, smoking, malnutrition, lack of physical activity, and high levels of stress are all risk factors that can influence the chance of getting cervical cancer, but HPV happens to be the most relevant risk factor for cervical cancer. The Human papillomavirus will cause warts such as papillomas to grow at an abnormal rate, and are usually seen in the genitalia. Any chronic infection due to HPV will be at high risk for cervical cancer.

PREVENTION

To help prevent cervical cancer women can get the HPV vaccine. Just like any other cancer-preventive measure, it is important to have regular check-ups at your primary physician to discard any abnormalities in the body. The earlier a change is noted in the body, the sooner cancer can be detected and treated.

Using condoms during sexual intercourse can help prevent HPV but is not 100% guaranteed to prevent infection. This is why getting checked routinely is important. A pap smear is the most common way to test for any HPV infection or pre-cancerous cells.

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