What is cervical cancer?
Cervical cancer develops in the cells of the cervix, located between the uterus and the vagina. Cervical cancer is unique in that most strains are caused by a sexually transmitted infection called human papillomavirus (HPV).
The two main types of cervical cancer are:
- Squamous cell carcinoma: begins in the thin, flat cells (squamous cells) lining the outer part of the cervix, on the vaginal side, called the exocervix. Most cervical cancers are squamous cell carcinomas.
- Adenocarcinoma: begins in the column-shaped glandular cells that line the cervical canal, called the endocervix.
Most cases of cervical cancer are now preventable. Getting the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine before becoming sexually active and having your children vaccinated can help prevent cervical, vaginal and vulvar cancers in vaccinated individuals. The FDA recommends vaccination for girls and women ages 9 to 26.
With proper screening, cervical cancer can also often be detected and treated in the pre-cancerous stage.
More information about cervical cancers (American Cancer Society)
What cervical cancer is not
Cervical cancer should not be confused with endometrial, fallopian tube, ovarian, peritoneal, vaginal, or vulvar cancers because these cancers can have different symptoms, outlooks, and treatments. HPV is also not the same as other sexually transmitted diseases.
Other types of cancer, such as melanoma, sarcoma, and lymphoma, can also occur in the cervix, although this is rare.
It’s possible that you could have one or more of the following tests (but not all of these apply to your condition):
- Pap test and HPV test
- Imaging (CT or PET scan or MRI)
Depending on your unique set of conditions and how far the disease has spread, your treatment could include one or more of the following treatments (but not all of these apply to your condition):
- Clinical trial
- Follow-up care including imaging, Pap tests and physical exams
- Targeted therapy
Your full team of care providers works closely together to review your diagnostic tests and identify the best course of treatment particular to you. Your team helps you understand your diagnosis and what to expect with any treatment you have.