More than 12,000 women will develop invasive cervical cancer this year. Cervical cancer begins in the lining of the cervix. Changes to normal cervical cells may gradually develop to precancerous cells that turn into cancer. A test known as a pap smear can detect precancerous cells when they are most treatable. Since the introduction of the Pap test, mortality rates have declined steadily. Routine screening is critical in preventing advanced staged cervical cancer, as precancerous cells could take years to turn into cancer.
The most important risk factor for cervical cancer is infection by the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus (HPV). There are many different types of HPV, and many do not cause cancer. You are also at greater risk for cervical cancer if you smoke, have a history of oral contraceptive use, or have a family history of cervical cancer. A cervical cancer vaccine that protects against some forms of HPV is available for females between the ages of 9 and 26.
Pap smears screen for precancerous and cancerous cells but do not provide a final diagnosis. If abnormal changes are detected, a procedure called a colposcopy usually occurs to surgically remove pieces of tissue. The tissue is sent to a laboratory for examination. Other tests may be recommended.
|Recommended Pap Test Screenings to Prevent Cervical Cancer|
|Women 21-29||Once a year|
|Women 30-69||Every 2-3 years after three consecutive normal tests.|
|Women 70 +||Optional after three normal Pap tests in a row and no abnormal pap results in 10 years, depending on risk factors.|
If cervical cancer is diagnosed, your physician will order additional tests to determine how far the cancer has spread. This is called staging. These tests may include a CT scan, cystoscopy, MRI and Chest X-ray.
Cervical cancer treatments will depend on the stage of the cancer; the size and shape of the tumor; the age and general health of the woman; and her desire to have children in the future. Early cervical cancer can be cured by removing or destroying the pre-cancerous tissue. There are various surgical procedures that do not remove the uterus or damage the cervix so that a woman can still have children.
Types of surgery for early cervical cancer include: