Cancer that starts in cells of the cervix is called cervical cancer. The cervix is the lower end of the uterus. It connects the uterus to the vagina. Cervical cancer can spread from the cervix to other parts of the body.
What causes cervical cancer?
In most women, cervical cancer is caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV infection is very common and often goes away on its own. But in some cases, over time, HPV may lead to cervical cancer. It's important to know that most women with HPV don’t develop cervical cancer.
Other risk factors include:
- Other lifestyle factors, such as diet and activity
- Being overweight
- Long-term use of birth control pills (oral contraceptives)
- Having sexually transmitted diseases
- Having a weak immune system
- Having multiple full-term pregnancies
- Having a full-term pregnancy before age 17
- Having a family history
Can cervical cancer be prevented?
- Get routine Pap tests. Regular testing with a Pap test can help find cervical cell changes before they become cancer.
- Get vaccinated. HPV vaccine can protect against certain types of HPV infection.
- Don't smoke. Women who smoke are about twice as likely as nonsmokers to get cervical cancer.
- Use condoms. Condoms need to be used correctly and every time you have sex.
What are the symptoms of cervical cancer?
In early stages of cervical cancer, most women will not have any symptoms. As the tumor grows or the cancer spreads, the most common symptoms are: abnormal vaginal bleeding, vaginal discharge, and pain during or bleeding after sex.
How is cervical cancer treated?
You and your health care provider will discuss a treatment plan that’s best for your needs. Treatment options may include:
- Surgery. The part of the cervix with cancer may be removed. Or the entire cervix and the uterus may be removed (total hysterectomy).
- Radiation therapy. This uses directed rays of energy to kill cancer cells.
- Chemotherapy. This uses strong medicine to kill cancer cells. It may be used along with radiation therapy.
- Targeted therapy. This uses medicines (not chemotherapy medicines) that are designed to attack and kill cancer cells and limit the damage to healthy cells.
Theodore Miller, MD, gynecologist, sees patients at Ripon Medical Center. To schedule an appointment, call (920) 745-3530.