Cervical Cancer Home > Cervical Cancer

Cervical cancer is a disease that occurs when cancer cells form in the tissues of the cervix, a part of a woman's reproductive system. While no one knows the exact cause of this cancer, human papillomavirus (HPV) infection is the major risk factor for developing the disease. Symptoms may not appear in the early stages of this type of cancer; when symptoms are present, they can include vaginal bleeding and pelvic pain, among other things. Treatment options include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy.

What Is Cervical Cancer?

Cervical cancer is a disease in which cancer cells form in the tissues of the cervix. In the last 50 years, there has been a decrease in the number of new cases and the number of deaths due to cervical cancer.

Understanding the Cervix

The cervix is part of a woman's reproductive system. It is located in the lower, narrow part of the uterus (womb). The uterus is a hollow, pear-shaped organ located in the lower abdomen. The cervix connects the uterus to the vagina and the vagina leads to the outside of the body.
The cervical canal is a passageway. Blood flows from the uterus through the canal into the vagina during a woman's menstrual period. The cervix also produces mucus, which helps sperm move from the vagina into the uterus. During pregnancy, the cervix is tightly closed to help keep the baby inside the uterus. During childbirth, the cervix dilates (opens) to allow the baby to pass through the vagina.
Cervical cancer usually develops slowly over time. Before cancer appears in the cervix, the cells of the cervix go through changes known as dysplasia, in which cells that are not normal begin to appear in the cervical tissue. Later, cancer cells start to grow and spread more deeply into the cervix and to surrounding areas.
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Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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