Most cervical cancers begin in the cervix, which is the lower part of the uterus. The cells covering the cervix are called squamous cells and glandular cells – about 80-90 percent of cervical cancers start as pre-cancers in the squamous cells. In addition to squamous cell carcinoma, adenocarcinomas may also develop in the glandular cells.
Cervical Cancer Risk Factors
The American Cancer Society estimates that about 12,340 new cases of invasive cervical cancer are diagnosed in the United States annually. Before the use of the Pap test, also called the Pap smear, cervical cancer was one of the leading causes of death for women. From 1955 to 1992, with an increasing use of the Pap test, the death rate from cervical cancer declined by 70 percent.
Risk factors for cervical cancer include:
- Having HPV (human papilloma virus)
- Having HIV (human immunodeficiency virus)
- Having chlamydia
- Being between the ages of 20 and 50, though about 20 percent of cases occur in women over the age of 65
- Being Hispanic or African American
- Having a family history of cervical cancer
Facts About HPV
The human papilloma virus is by far the biggest risk factor for developing cervical cancer. The virus is thought to produce proteins that disable certain genes that suppress tumors. HPV can be spread via skin-to-skin contact, including sex. Some types of HPV – there are over 150 types of HPV – are less likely to cause cancer than others. To types of HPV, type 16 and type 18, cause approximately 70 percent of all cervical cancers.
Signs & Symptoms of Cervical Cancer
Pre-cancer or cervical cancer in its early stages usually does not cause symptoms, which is why screenings are so important. When cancer has become invasive, it may cause:
- Pain during intercourse
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding, such as bleeding after sex, after menopause or between periods
- Unusual vaginal discharge
Cervical Cancer Diagnosis & Treatment
The best way to detect abnormal pre-cancer cells in the cervix is a Pap test. The majority of pre-cancer cells will not turn into invasive cancer. HPV tests can also help to find pre-cancers before they turn into invasive cancers. Read more about cervical screenings and at what age you should discuss these screenings with your doctor. Cervical cancer is usually treated with some combination of surgery, chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
Cervical Cancer Education, Screenings & Treatment at BayCare
BayCare is proud to offer a variety of cancer services throughout Tampa, Clearwater, St. Petersburg and all of Tampa Bay. Call (855) 314-8346 for a physician referral or find a doctor near you.