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You are here : 3-RX.com > Medical Encyclopedia > Diseases and Conditions > Cancer of the Cervix
      Category : Health Centers > Cancers and Tumors

Cancer of the Cervix

Alternate Names : Cervical Cancer, Cervical Tumor, Cervical Carcinoma

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors | Symptoms & Signs | Diagnosis & Tests | Prevention & Expectations | Treatment & Monitoring

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 the cervix.
  • 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
  • not using 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
  • smoking
  • 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


    Next section


    Cancer of the Cervix: Symptoms & Signs

    Author: Eva Martin, MD
    Reviewer: Eileen McLaughlin, RN, BSN
    Date Reviewed: 07/16/01

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