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Cervical cancer is a cancer that starts in the cervix, that is the lower part of the uterus that opens at the top of the vagina. Cervical cancer can often be cured when it's found early. A Pap test is the best way of detecting cervical cancer.
Most cervical cancers are caused by a virus called human papillomavirus, or HPV. HPV is a common virus that is spread through sexual intercourse. Not all types of HPV cause cervical cancer; some of them cause genital warts, but other types may not cause any symptoms at all.
Risk factors for cervical cancer include:
You can have HPV for years and not know it. It stays in your body and can lead to cervical cancer years after you were infected. This is why it is important for women to have regular Pap tests. A Pap test can find changes in cervical cells before they turn into cancer. If these cell changes are treated, cervical cancer may be prevented.
Most of the time, early cervical cancer has no symptoms. Symptoms that may occur can include:
Symptoms of advanced cervical cancer may include:
Treatment of cervical cancer depends on the:
Early cervical cancer can be cured by removing or destroying the pre-cancerous or cancerous tissue. There are various surgical ways to do this without removing the uterus or damaging the cervix, so that a woman will still be able to have children.
Many factors influence the outcome of cervical cancer. These include the:
Pre-cancerous conditions are completely curable when followed up and treated properly. The chance of being alive five years (5-year survival rate) after the diagnosis of cancer that has spread to the inside of the cervix walls but not outside the cervix area is 92%. The 5-year survival rate falls steadily as the cancer spreads into other areas of the body.
Since 2007 a vaccine has become available that prevents infection with certain species of human papillomavirus. It is recommended that young women receive this immunisation as it will protect them against cervical cancer caused by these species later in life.