What is cervical
Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that occurs in the
cervix. The cervix connects the lower part of a woman’s uterus to her vagina. Cervical
cancer was once a leading cause of death among U.S. women. That changed when
the Pap smear became widely available. This test allows doctors to find
precancerous changes in a woman’s cervix and treat them. According to the American
Cancer Society (ACS), the mortality rate has declined by 50 percent within
the last 40 years.
estimates that in 2017, approximately 12,820 American women will be diagnosed
with cervical cancer and 4,210 will die from the disease. Most instances will
be diagnosed in women who are between the ages of 20 and 50.
is the cervix?
The uterine cervix is also known as “the mouth of the womb.”
If you’re a woman, it’s the hollow cylinder that connects your uterus to your
vagina. Your uterus is where a fetus grows during a pregnancy.
The surface of your cervix faces outward into your vagina.
It’s made up of types of cells different from the lining of your cervical
canal. Most cervical cancers start on the surface of the cervix.
is the connection between cervical cancer and HPV?
Almost all cervical cancers are caused by the sexually
transmitted human papillomavirus
(HPV). There are a number of different strains of HPV. Only certain types
are associated with cervical cancer. The two types that most commonly cause
cancer are HPV-16 and HPV-18.
Infection with a cancer-causing strain of HPV doesn’t mean
you’ll get cervical cancer. Your immune system eliminates the vast majority of
HPV infections. Most people are rid of the virus within two years. However, HPV
is extremely common. The Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that most sexually active men
and women will become infected by HPV during their lifetime.
HPV can also cause other cancers in women and men. These
However, infection from the two most common cancer-causing
strains of HPV is preventable by vaccine. Vaccination is most effective before
a person becomes sexually active. Both boys and girls can be vaccinated against
The risk of HPV transmission can also be reduced by
practicing safe sex. However, condoms can’t prevent all HPV infections. The
virus can also be transmitted from skin to skin.
is a Pap smear?
smear is a test doctors use to diagnose cervical cancer. To perform this
test, your doctor collects cells from the surface of your cervix. These cells
are then sent to a lab to be examined under a microscope for evidence of
precancerous or cancerous changes. If such changes are found, your doctor may
suggest a colposcopy,
a procedure for examining your cervix. Early lesions can be removed before they
cause too much damage.
Routine Pap smears have greatly reduced the number of deaths
from cervical cancer.
is the outlook for cervical cancer?
The five-year survival rates for cervical cancers that are
caught early are excellent. This isn’t the case for larger, invasive cancers.
When the cancer has spread, or metastasized, within the pelvic region, the five-year
survival rate drops to 57 percent. If the cancer spreads beyond this area, the
rate drops to 16 percent, according to the ACS.
Routine Pap smears are important. Caught early, cervical
cancer is very treatable. Precancerous changes are often detected and treated
before cervical cancer can develop. Testing and treatment stops cervical cancer
before it starts. According to the ACS,
the majority of American women who are diagnosed with cervical cancer have
either never had a Pap smear or not had one in the last five years.