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Cervical Cancer

What Is Cervical Cancer?

Patient Comments

The uterus (womb) is a bottle-shaped organ lying low in the female pelvis. The uterine cervix is the 4 cm long bottle-neck-like end of the uterus. While most of the uterus lies in the pelvis, the lower 2 cm of the cervix is located in the vagina, where it connects the uterus with the vagina. The canal through the cervix, the endocervical canal, is contiguous with the uterine cavity.

Cancer of the cervix occurs when the cells of the surface of cervix change in a way that leads to abnormal growth and invasion of other tissues or organs of the body.

Like all cancers, cancer of the cervix is much more likely to be cured if it is detected early and treated immediately.

  • One of the key features of cervical cancer is its slow progression from normal cervical tissue to precancerous (or dysplastic) changes in the tissue to invasive cancer.
  • The slow progression through numerous precancerous changes is very important because it provides opportunities for prevention and early detection (through Pap test) and treatment.
  • These opportunities have caused a decline in the incidence of cervical cancer over the past decades in the United States. Still, over 12,000 new cases of cervical cancer occur each year in the U.S., and over 4,000 women die each year from the disease.

Invasive cancer means that the cancer affects the deeper tissues of the cervix and may have spread to other parts of the body. This spread is called metastasis. Cervical cancers don't always spread, but those that do most often spread to the regional lymph nodes, the lungs, the liver, the bladder, the vagina, and/or the rectum.

Last Reviewed 11/20/2017

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Patient Comments & Reviews

The eMedicineHealth doctors ask about Cervical Cancer:

Cervical Cancer - Diagnosis

Did you have any of the risk factors for cervical cancer at the time of your diagnosis? If so, what were they?

Cervical Cancer - Treatment

What was the treatment for your cervical cancer?

Cervical Cancer - Symptoms

What were the symptoms of your cervical cancer?

Cervical Cancer - Experience

Please describe your experience with cervical cancer.

Abnormal Pap Test

What is an abnormal Pap test?

A Pap test, or Pap smear, is part of a woman's routine physical exam. It is the best way to prevent cervical cancer, because it can find cells on your cervix that could turn into cancer. The cervix is the lower part of the uterus that opens into the vagina.

When your doctor says that your Pap test was "abnormal," it means that the test found some cells on your cervix that do not look normal. It does not mean that you have cancer. In fact, the chances that you have cancer are very small.

What causes an abnormal Pap test?

Most of the time, abnormal cell changes on the cervix are caused by certain types of human papillomavirus, or HPV. HPV is a sexually transmitted infection. Usually these cell changes go away on their own. But certain types of HPV have been linked to cervical cancer. That's why it's important for women to have regular Pap tests. It usually takes many years for cell changes in the cervix to turn into cancer.


Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Cervical Cancer »

Cervical cancer is the second most common malignancy in women worldwide, and it remains a leading cause of cancer-related death for women in developing countries.

Read More on Medscape Reference »

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