What is cervical cancer?


Quick Answer

According to Mayo Clinic, cervical cancer occurs when normal cervical cells transform into cancerous cells that multiply uncontrollably. These cancerous cells can then form tumors and invade other parts of the body. Commonly known as HPV, the sexually transmitted disease human papillomavirus causes cervical cancer in the majority of cases by helping transform the normal cervical cells into cancerous ones.

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Full Answer

The National Cancer Institute notes that most adults are infected with HPV at some point in their lives, and the infection often resolves on its own. Sexual activity at a young age, a high number of sex partners and cigarette smoking put women at higher risk for HPV and cervical cancer. Cancer screening tests can catch abnormal cervical cells before they develop into cancer, so regular screenings are important. During such screenings, the doctor may perform an HPV DNA test to determine if cells known to cause cervical cancer are present.

Mayo Clinic states that squamous cell carcinoma is the most common type of cervical cancer, and it occurs in the cells of the outer cervix. The less common adenocarcinoma appears in the cervical canal. Symptoms often develop during advanced cancer stages and include heavier-than-usual menstrual bleeding, bleeding after intercourse, bleeding after menopause and pelvic pain. Diagnosis is achieved by testing the cervical tissue, usually via biopsy. Treatment of early-stage cervical cancer can include surgery. Both internal and external radiation therapy and chemotherapy can be used at any stage.

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