Cancer of the Cervix
Alternate Names : Cervical Cancer, Cervical Tumor, Cervical Carcinoma
The cervix is the opening between the vagina and the uterus.
Cancer of the cervix is a malignant tumor on the cervix. Precancerous changes
in the cells on the top layer of the cervix are an early sign that cervical
cancer may develop.
What is going on in the body?
Cervical cancer is fairly common cancer of the reproductive system that occurs
most often among women aged 40 to 55.
Even though the cervix is located within a woman's
vagina, its cells act very much like skin cells. These cells are exposed to
toxins, viruses, and bacteria that may cause abnormal changes called cervical dysplasia.
Each stage of cervical dysplasia is judged by the
thickness of the layer of abnormal cells. The earliest change that can be seen
with a microscope is called mild dysplasia. If not treated, these precancerous
changes may become moderate and then severe. The fourth, most severe, stage of
dysplasia is called carcinoma in
situ. After this occurs, cancer cells may invade deeper layers of
the cervix or spread to nearby sites. At that point, a woman has what is called
invasive cervical cancer.
What are the causes and risks of the disease?
No one knows exactly what causes cancer of the cervix. Certain health problems,
lifestyle choices, and other factors may increase a woman's risk for developing
it, including the following:
having had a sexually
transmitted disease. Both
chlamydia and human
papilloma virus infections are strongly associated with cancer of
having had an abnormal Pap
smear. A Pap smear is an examination, under a microscope, of cells
scraped from the cervix.
becoming sexually active before age 18
having had more than 3 sexual partners
condoms with new sexual partners
having had cancer of the vagina or vulva
having a sexual partner whose previous partner had cancer of the cervix
or cervical dysplasia, a
condition of abnormal cells that precedes cancer
having a sexual partner who has or has had cancer of the penis
having a weakened immune system, for example, as a result of HIV or another immunodeficiency disorder
being the daughter of a woman who took DES, or
diethylstilbestrol, during pregnancy
a history of cancer of the cervix in a woman's sister or mother