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Cervical cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the cervix. The cervix is the lower, narrow end of the uterus (the hollow, pear-shaped organ where a fetus grows). The cervix leads from the uterus to the vagina (birth canal) and holds the fetus in place during pregnancy. Cervical cancer usually develops slowly over time and is pre-dated by pre-cancerous changes, which is why PAP smears are so successful in preventing cervical cancer from developing. The disease in children is rare.
Before cancer appears in the cervix, the cells of the cervix go through changes known as dysplasia, in which cells that are not normal begin to appear in the cervical tissue. Later, cancer cells start to grow and spread more deeply into the cervix and surrounding areas, such as lymph nodes.
Risk factors for cervical cancer can include:
Symptoms of cervical cancer may not appear until the disease is more advanced. Regular screenings are important to ensure that cervical changes are caught early and precancerous cells are treated before they cause symptoms or develop into cancer. The signs and symptoms for cervical cancer can include:
Learn details about how we diagnose cervical cancer.
Treatment options depend on:
Treatment during pregnancy depends on the stage of the cancer and the stage of the pregnancy. For cervical cancer that is found early, or for cancer found during the last trimester of pregnancy, treatment may be delayed until after the baby is born.
Learn details about how we treat cervical cancer.
The chance of recovery (prognosis) depends on:
Find out more about cervical cancer from the National Cancer Institute.
Next: How We Diagnose Cervical Cancer