Cervical cancer is typically caused by a sexually-transmitted virus called human papillomavirus, according to WebMD. Abnormal changes among cervical cells can also lead to cervical cancer, but the occurrence is rare.
WebMD explains that not all types of HPV cause cervical cancer and that most adults have some sort of HPV during their lives. Often, HPV only causes outbreaks of genital warts or no symptoms at all and may go away on its own. Regular Pap tests are one way to detect any abnormal changes in cervical cells. Symptoms can include abnormal vaginal discharge, pelvic, abdominal or vaginal pain, especially during sex, and vaginal bleeding between menstrual periods.