Cervical cancer is a common cancer of the female reproductive system, specifically the cervix of the uterus. Cervical cancer is the third most common type of cancer in women in the world. However, the routine use of Pap smear screening has made it far less common in the United States, according to the National Institutes of Health (Source: NIH).
The cervix is the organ that provides an opening between the vagina and the uterus. Normally, cells in a woman’s cervix that are old or damaged will stop dividing and die. These cells are replaced by healthy young cells. The earliest, precancerous stage of cervical cancer occurs when old or damaged cells continue to divide in the superficial layer of the cervix. This is called cervical dysplasia. When cervical dysplasia is not treated, it can grow and spread into the deeper tissues of the cervix, developing into cervical cancer.
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Your doctor may recommend a specific treatment. Or, he or she may offer you a choice of which one you’d like to follow. But in most cases, surgery or radiation will be needed. Discuss with your doctor and other healthcare professionals any questions and concerns you have about your treatment options. Ask how successful the treatment is expected to be, and what its risks and side effects may be. Take the time you need to make the best decision for you.
Doctors are also finding new ways to treat cervical cancer. These new methods are tested in clinical trials. Before beginning treatment, you should ask your doctor if there are any clinical trials you should consider.
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There is really no way to know for sure if you're going to get cervical cancer. Certain factors can make you more likely to get cervical cancer than another woman. These are called risk factors. However, just because you have one or more risk factors does not mean you will get cervical cancer. In fact, you can have all the risk factors and still not get cervical cancer. With cervical cancer, it is rare to get the disease if you have no known risk factors, but it is possible.
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