Cervical cancer was once one of the most common causes of cancer death for American women. The main reason for the improvement in cervical cancer outcomes in the United States is the use of Pap screening, which enables early diagnosis of precancerous cells.
What is cervical cancer?
Cervical cancer is cancer of the cervix, the lower portion of the uterus (which opens into the vagina and dilates during labor). Cervical cancer is caused by longstanding and persistent infection with high-risk types of human papillomavirus (HPV). Most cervical cancers develop in women who haven’t had a Pap test in a long time. Cervical cancer is a form of gynecologic cancer, or any cancer that starts in a woman's reproductive organs. Other types of gynecologic cancer include ovarian, uterine, vaginal and vulvar cancers.
Who develops cervical cancer?
Cervical cancer tends to occur in women in their 30s, 40s and 50s. Around 20 percent of patients will be diagnosed in their 60s. Usually, these are women who haven’t had a Pap test in several years.
What are the symptoms of cervical cancer?
In the beginning, no signs or symptoms may be present. Over time, signs and symptoms of more advanced cervical cancer may include:
bleeding after intercourse, between periods or after menopause
pelvic pain or pain during intercourse
watery, bloody discharge that may be heavy and have a foul odor
How is cervical cancer diagnosed?
If you have cervical cancer symptoms or a Pap test reveals cancerous cells, your physician may perform a colposcopy to examine abnormal cells or remove a sample of cells (called a biopsy) for further testing.
How is cervical cancer treated?
Treatment options will depend on cancer stage, how far into the cervix it has grown and your individual health and may include a combination of surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy.
Valley offers comprehensive cervical cancer treatment through its gynecologic oncology program. For more information, call 201-634-5401.