Office of Cancer Control and Prevention

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Cervical Cancer

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What is it?

Cervical cancer is a disease in which the cells of the cervix become abnormal and start to grow uncontrollably, forming tumors. There are 2 main types of cervical cancers: squamous cell carcinomaand adenocarcinoma. Cervical cancer is a highly preventable and curable disease.

What puts me at risk?

  • Human Papillomaviruses (HPVs): HPV infection is the main risk factor for cervical cancer. HPV is a group of viruses that can infect the cervix. HPV infections are very common and can be passed through sexual contact. Doctors may check for HPV even if there are no symptoms.

  • Lack of regular Pap tests: Having regular Pap tests is very important to preventing cervical cancer. The Pap test helps doctors find precancerous cells and treat them before cervical cancer develops.

  • Weakened immune system (the body's natural defense system) Women with HIV (the virus that causes AIDS) infection or who take immune-suppressing drugs are at an increased risk of developing cervical cancer.

  • Age: Cervical cancer occurs most often in women over the age of 40.

  • Sexual history: Women who have had many sexual partners or who have had sexual intercourse with a man who has had many sexual partners may be at an increased risk of developing cervical cancer. The risk of developing cervical cancer is higher because of an increased risk of HPV infection.

  • Smoking cigarettes: Women with an HPV infection who smoke cigarettes have a higher risk of developing cervical cancer than women with HPV infection who do not smoke.

  • Using birth control pills for a long time: Women with HPV infection who use birth control pills for 5 years or more may have an increased risk of cervical cancer.

  • Having many children: Studies suggest that women with HPV infection who give birth to many children may have an increased risk of cervical cancer.

Source: National Cancer Institute. What You Need to Know About Cancer of the Cervix.

Preventing Cancer

Pap Test:The Pap test is the most common test used to screen for cervical cancer. The Pap test can help the doctor find abnormal cells before cancer develops. It can also detect HPV infections which can lead to cervical cancer. Finding and treating abnormal cells can prevent most cervical cancers. Screening can also help find cancer early, when treatment is more likely to be effective.

HPV vaccination: In 2006, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration(FDA) approved the use of a vaccine to prevent infection by the four most common types of HPV. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the use of the vaccine in females aged 11 to 26 and in males aged 9 to 26 to reduce their likelihood of acquiring genital warts. Because not all HPV types that cause cervical cancer are included in the vaccine, the CDC recommends no change in cervical cancer screening practices for females receiving the HPV vaccine.

Screening for Early Detection

  • Pap Test: A Pap test (sometimes called Pap smear or cervical smear) is a simple test used to look at cervical cells. This test is performed during a regular office visit to a healthcare provider. A healthcare provider uses a wooden scraper and/or a small brush to collect a sample of cells from the cervix. The cells are then placed on a glass slide. In a new type of Pap test (liquid-based Pap test), the cells are rinsed into a small container of liquid and then put onto a slide. For both types of Pap tests, the slides are sent to a laboratory to check for abnormalities.

    Click here to see cervical cancer screening guidelines.

    For more information on early detection, log onto:
    National Cancer Institute: What You Need to Know About Cancer of the Cervix

    New Jersey Cancer Education and Early Detection Services (NJCEED) - Recommendations Regarding Screening for Cervical Health Services

Treatment Options: Treatment options for women with cervical cancer include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or a combination of the three methods.

  • Surgery - Surgery (removing the cancer in an operation) treats the cancer in the cervix and the area close to the tumor. Many women with early stage cervical cancer undergo a total hysterectomy (surgery to remove the cervix and uterus). For very early stage cervical cancer (Stage 0), a hysterectomy may not be needed. Instead, the following procedures may be used:

    1. Conization – A procedure to remove a cone-shaped piece of tissue from the cervix and cervical canal

    2. Cryosurgery – A treatment that uses an instrument to freeze and destroy abnormal tissue

    3. Laser surgery – A surgical procedure that uses a laser beam to make cuts in tissue or to remove a lesion such as a tumor

    4. LEEP (Loop electrosurgical excision procedure) – A treatment that uses electrical current passed through a thin wire loop to remove abnormal tissue or cancer.

    5. Some women may need a radical hysterectomy (surgery to remove the uterus, cervix, and part of the vagina) to treat their cancer.

    6. With either a total or radical hysterectomy, the surgeon may remove both fallopian tubes and ovaries. This procedure is called a salpingo- oophorectomy.

    7. The surgeon may also remove the lymph nodes near the tumor to see if they contain cancer. If the lymph nodes contain cancer, it may mean that the disease has spread to other parts of the body.

  • Radiation Therapy- Radiation therapy is the use of high-energy x-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells or keep them from growing. The following two types of radiation are used to treat cervical cancer:

    1. External radiation – Radiation comes from a large machine outside the body. The patient usually undergoes treatment 5 days a week for several weeks in a hospital or clinic.

    2. Internal radiation – Thin tubes (also called implants) containing a radioactive substance are left in the vagina for a few hours or up to 3 days. The woman may stay in the hospital during that time. Once the tubes are removed, no radioactivity is left in her body. Internal radiation may be repeated 2 or more times over several weeks.

  • Chemotherapy – Chemotherapy is a cancer treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells. Chemotherapy can be taken by mouth or injected into a vein or muscle. It can also be placed directly into an area of the body such as the spinal column, an organ, or a body cavity such as the abdomen.

    Chemotherapy may be combined with radiation therapy to treat cervical cancer or may be given alone. Treatment can usually be done as an outpatient in the hospital, in a doctor’s office, or at home.

    For more information on cancer treatment, log onto:
    National Cancer Institute

Clinical Trials

  • Clinical trials are research studies in which people help doctors find ways to improve health and cancer care. Each study tries to answer scientific questions and to find better ways to prevent, diagnose, or treat cancer.

  • A clinical trial is one of the final stages of a long and careful cancer research process. Studies are done with cancer patients to find out whether promising approaches to cancer prevention, diagnosis, and treatment are safe and effective.

  • Different types of clinical trials include:
    • Treatment trials
    • Prevention trials
    • Screening trials
    • Quality of life trials

For more information on clinical trials, log onto:

Coping with Cancer

  • Fatigue
  • Pain
  • Side Effects/ Other Complications
  • Nutritional Concerns
  • Emotional Concerns
  • End-of-Life Issues
  • Treatment Related Issues

For more information on coping with cancer, log onto:

For information on home care, log onto:

For information on national organizations that offer services to people with cancer and their families, log onto:

Palliative Care -Palliative care is a coordinated, inter-disciplinary approach to healthcare that enhances the quality of life of people with cancer and other illnesses. It targets the physical and psychological symptoms and spiritual needs of survivors from the time of diagnosis to end-of- life care in all settings.

For more information on Palliative Care, log onto:

Children Coping with Mothers with Cervical Cancer

  • Learn more about all different types of cancers
  • Questions that children might have dealing with cancer
  • Books to help children understand more about certain cancers
  • Stories from other children
  • Camps and foundations

For more information - CancerSourceKids


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