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Cervical cancer

About cervical cancer

Cervical cancer is relatively rare, accounting for less than 1 percent of all new cancer diagnoses. The American Cancer Society estimates 13,170 new cases of cervical cancer will be diagnosed in the United States in 2019.

What causes cervical cancer?

The cervix is a small, narrow, tube-like organ at the bottom of the uterus that connects to the vagina. The cervix is the passage through which sperm travels to the uterus and menstrual fluid flows out. It also dilates during labor to allow a baby to pass through the birth canal.

Cervical cancer forms when the cells that line the cervix begin to develop abnormal changes. Over time, these mutated cells may grow out of control and form a tumor. Routine Pap screening may help detect abnormal cells in the cervix, so they can be treated. Most women are advised to get a Pap test starting at age 21.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that more than 90 percent of all cervical cancers are caused by a human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. Not every woman who has HPV will develop a cervical tumor, though treatment with the HPV vaccine is known to help prevent cervical cancer.

Learn more about risk factors for cervical cancer

Who gets cervical cancer?

Unlike most other cancers, cervical cancer is often diagnosed in young to middle-aged women. According to the National Cancer Institute:

  • The average age of a woman diagnosed with cervical cancer is 50.
  • More than one-third of new cervical cancer diagnoses are in women between 20 and 44 years old.
  • About 80 percent of all cervical cancer diagnoses are in women younger than 65.

Get answers to key questions about cervical cancer

Types of cervical cancer

There are two main types of cervical cancer:

  • Squamous cell carcinoma is the most common type of cervical cancer.
  • Adenocarcinomas develop in glandular cells in the upper portion of the cervix.

Some cervical tumors may involve both squamous cells and glandular cells.

Learn more about cervical cancer types

Cervical cancer symptoms

Cervical cancer may not always cause symptoms in the early stage of the disease. When symptoms do develop, they may include:

  • Vaginal bleeding between periods or after intercourse
  • Post-menopausal vaginal bleeding
  • Vaginal discharge
  • Pain in the pelvis

Learn more about cervical cancer symptoms

Diagnosing cervical cancer

Tests and tools used to diagnose cervical cancer include:

  • Pap test and pelvic exam
  • Colposcopy
  • Biopsy
  • Imaging tests
  • Lab tests

Learn more about diagnostic procedures for cervical cancer

Treating cervical cancer

At Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA), our gynecological oncologists work with cervical cancer patients to design a treatment plan tailored to their specific diagnosis and needs. Treatment options for cervical cancer include:

  • Surgery
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation therapy
  • Targeted therapy
  • Immunotherapy

Learn more about treatment options for cervical cancers

Next topic: What are the risk factors for cervical cancer?