The cervix is the lower part of the womb (uterus). The uterus has two parts — the upper part (body) where a baby grows, and the lower part (cervix). The cervix connects the body of the uterus to the vagina (birth canal).
Cervical cancer, or cancer of the cervix, begins on the surface of the cervix. As per Globocan 2020 cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer among females worldwide and second most common cancer among females in India. There are two main types of cancer of the cervix — squamous cell carcinomas and adenocarcinomas. About 80% to 90% are squamous cell carcinomas, 10%-20% are adenocarcinomas and other varieties are rare.
Various strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted infection, play a role in causing most cervical cancer. When exposed to HPV, a woman's immune system typically prevents the virus from doing harm. In a small group of women, however, the virus survives for years, contributing to the process that causes some cells on the surface of the cervix to become cancer cells.
When exposed to HPV, a woman's immune system typically prevents the virus from doing harm. In a small group of women, however, the virus survives for years, contributing to the process that causes some cells on the surface of the cervix to become cancer cells.
Early-stage cervical cancer generally produces no signs or symptoms.
Signs and symptoms of more-advanced cervical cancer include:
The type of cervical cancer that you have helps determine your prognosis and treatment. The main types of cervical cancer are:
Sometimes, both types of cells are involved in cervical cancer. Very rarely, cancer occurs in other cells in the cervix.
Risk factors for cervical cancer include:
Together, pelvic exams and Pap smears can detect most cases of cervical cancer. For an accurate diagnosis, your doctor will visually examine the cervix and take a tissue sample of any apparent abnormality for biopsy.
A Pap test can detect abnormal cells in the cervix, including cancer cells and cells that show changes that increase the risk of cervical cancer.
If the punch biopsy or endocervical curettage is worrisome, your doctor may perform one of the following tests:
Electrical wire loop, which uses a thin, low-voltage electrical wire to obtain a small tissue sample. Generally this is done under local anesthesia in the office.
Stage I — Cancer is found only in the cervix.
Stage II — Cancer has spread beyond the cervix but has not yet spread to the pelvic wall (the tissues that line the part of the body between the hips).
Stage III — Cancer has spread to the lower third of the vagina and may have spread to the pelvic wall and nearby lymph nodes.
Stage IV — Cancer has spread to the bladder, rectum, or other parts of the body.
Treatment for cervical cancer depends on several factors, such as the stage of the cancer, other health problems you may have and your preferences. Surgery, radiation, chemotherapy or a combination of the three may be used.
Early-stage cervical cancer is typically treated with surgery to remove the uterus (hysterectomy). A hysterectomy can cure early-stage cervical cancer and prevent recurrence. But removing the uterus makes it impossible to become pregnant.
Your doctor may recommend:
Minimally invasive surgery may be an option for early-stage cervical cancer.
Surgery that preserves the possibility of becoming pregnant also may be an option, if you have very early-stage cervical cancer without lymph node involvement.
Radiation therapy uses high-powered energy beams, such as X-rays or protons, to kill cancer cells. Radiation therapy may be used alone or with chemotherapy before surgery to shrink a tumor or after surgery to kill any remaining cancer cells.
Radiation therapy can be given:
Premenopausal women may stop menstruating and begin menopause as a result of radiation therapy. If you might want to get pregnant after radiation treatment, ask your doctor about ways to preserve your eggs before treatment starts.
Chemotherapy uses medications, usually injected into a vein, to kill cancer cells. Low doses of chemotherapy are often combined with radiation therapy, since chemotherapy may enhance the effects of the radiation. Higher doses of chemotherapy are used to control advanced cervical cancer that may not be curable.