What is Cervical cancer?

Cervical cancer is a fairly rare disease. It can be fatal.

Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that starts in the cells of the cervix. The cervix is the lower part of the uterus. It connects the uterus and the vagina. The cervix is the opening of the uterus.

There are several types of cervical cancer. The most common type is cervical cancer. It develops in the cells that line the cervix. It can also develop in the cells that line the uterus.

The most common symptoms of cervical cancer are:

  • Bleeding between periods
  • Heavy bleeding during or after sex
  • Pelvic pain
  • Vaginal discharge that is foul smelling or looks like blood
  • Pain during sex
  • Trouble urinating
  • A lump in the vagina or the belly

This information is about cervical cancer. For more information about other types of cancer, see the topic Cervical Cancer.

How is cervix cancer diagnosed?

If you have symptoms of cervical cancer, your healthcare provider will ask you about them. They will also do a physical exam. Your healthcare provider will do a pelvic exam.

To do a pelvic exam, your provider will:

  • Look at your ovaries, uterus, and the upper part of your vagina.
  • Feel your bottom.
  • Feel your breasts.
  • Check your belly.

The healthcare provider may also do a biopsy. This involves taking a small piece of tissue from the cervix. The tissue may be taken with a small needle. Or it may be taken with a long, thin tube. This is called a curette.

If you have cervical cancer, the tissue will be checked for cancer cells. Your healthcare provider will also look for abnormal cells that may have spread to other parts of your body.

Tests for cervical cancer

Tests may be done to find out the stage of the cancer. This is important because it will help your healthcare provider decide what treatments are best for you. Tests may include:

  • A pelvic exam and Pap test. The pelvic exam and Pap test are done to find out if you have cancer. The Pap test is done to find out if you have abnormal cells in your cervix.
  • A test to find out if cancer has spread. This is called a transvaginal ultrasound.
  • An MRI. This is a test that uses a magnetic field and radio waves to make detailed pictures of the inside of your body.
  • A CT scan. This test uses x-rays and a computer to make detailed pictures of your body.
  • A PET scan. This test uses a radioactive sugar solution. It is given to find out if cancer has spread.

How is cervical cancer treated?

Treatment will depend on the type of cervical cancer you have, the stage of the cancer, and your age. It will also depend on how well your cancer responds to the treatment you are getting.

Types of treatment for cervical cancer

There are many treatment options for cervical cancer. Your healthcare team will talk to you about the best treatment plan for you. Some treatment options include:


If you have cervical cancer, you may need to have one or more surgeries. This may include:

  • Removal of the uterus, which is called a hysterectomy
  • Removal of the cervix, which is called a cervical conization
  • Removal of the lymph nodes in the lower part of the abdomen, which is called a lymph node dissection

You may also get radiation therapy after surgery. This is a treatment that uses high-energy x-rays to kill cancer cells.


Chemotherapy is a treatment that uses medicines to kill cancer cells. You may get chemotherapy before or after surgery. It is given in cycles. Each cycle is a period of time when you take the medicine. You get treatment for a certain number of cycles. For example, you might get treatment for 5 cycles. Each cycle is followed by a rest period.

After chemotherapy, you may have more surgery. This is called a chemoradiation.

Supportive care

You may need other treatments along with surgery. These include:

  • Chemotherapy to help kill any cancer cells that are left after surgery
  • Radiation therapy to kill any cancer cells that have not been killed by chemotherapy
  • Targeted therapy to kill cancer cells that are resistant to chemotherapy or radiation
  • Immunotherapy to boost the body’s immune system to fight the cancer
  • Hormone therapy to slow the growth of cancer cells

What are the complications of cervical cancer?

Cervical cancer can cause problems in almost all of your organs. These include:

  • Osteoporosis. This is a condition that makes your bones weak and less able to handle stress. It can cause broken bones.
  • Paralysis. This is a condition in which you have trouble moving, feeling, or controlling your muscles. It can make it hard to move your arms, legs, or mouth.
  • Bowel obstruction. This is a condition that makes it hard to have a bowel movement.
  • Sexual problems. These include erectile dysfunction, or not being able to get an erection. You may also have trouble getting and keeping an erection.

Who is at risk for cervical cancer?

You may be at risk for cervical cancer if you have:

  • HPV. This is a virus that can cause cervical cancer. It is passed from person to person.
  • Not enough HPV vaccines. You may not be able to have the vaccine. This is because it can cause severe side effects.
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV). This is a virus that causes cervical cancer.
  • Having had an abnormal Pap test. This test shows the status of your cervix.

Talk with your healthcare provider about your risk factors for cervical cancer. You can also visit the American Cancer Society to see what you can do to reduce your risk.

How can I prevent cervical cancer?

The best way to prevent cervical cancer is to not have any type of sex. This includes vaginal, anal, and oral sex. You can get the HPV vaccine if you are at high risk for cervical cancer. This vaccine can help protect you from getting HPV. This is a virus that can cause cervical cancer. It is passed from person to person.

You can also use birth control to help prevent cervical cancer. This can include:

  • Condoms. These are made of latex or polyurethane. They are made to fit tightly over the penis or vagina. They are made of a material that makes it hard for sperm to pass through the body.
  • Diaphragms. These are made of latex or polyurethane. They are put over the cervix. They are put in place by the healthcare provider. They are removed when the person is done having sex.
  • Tubal ligation. This is a surgery to close the fallopian tubes.

A quick recap

Cervical cancer is a cancer that starts in the cells of the cervix. It can spread to other parts of the body.

  • Cervical cancer is treated with surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation.

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