Facts about Cervical Cancer

Cervical cancer is a cancer arising from the cervix. The cervix is the lower, narrow end of the uterus (the organ where a fetus grows).

It is due to the abnormal growth of cells that have the ability to invade or spread to other parts of the body. Early stages of cervical cancers usually do not have any symptoms, and for most women, the first sign of cervical cancer is when changes are detected on aPap smear (Pap test). Later symptoms may include abnormal vaginal bleeding, pelvic pain or pain during sexual intercourse. While bleeding after sex may not be serious, it may also indicate the presence of cervical cancer.

A Pap test checks the cervix for abnormal cell changes. Your doctor takes cells from your cervix to examine under a microscope. How often you need a Pap test depends on your age and health history.

Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection appears to be involved in the development of more than 90% of cases; most people who have had HPV infections, however, do not develop cervical cancer. Other risk factors include having many sexual partners, smoking, taking birth control pills, and engaging in early sexual contact.

Two vaccines, Gardasil and Cervarix, are available to protect against HPV infection, and may prevent up to 90% of cervical cancers.

Cervical cancer can usually be cured if it is found and treated in the early stages.

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