What is Cervical Cancer?

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Diagram of the female genital tract depicting fallopian tubes, ovaries, uterus, cervix, vagina, and vulva.Cancer is a disease in which cells in the body grow out of control. Cancer is always named for the part of the body where it starts, even if it spreads to other body parts later.When cancer starts in the cervix, it is called cervical cancer. The cervix is the lower, narrow end of the uterus. The cervix connects the vagina (birth canal) to the upper part of the uterus. The uterus (or womb) is where a baby grows when a woman is pregnant.Cervical cancer is highly preventable in most Western countries because screening tests and a vaccine to prevent human papillomavirus (HPV) infections are available. When cervical cancer is found early, it is highly treatable and associated with long survival and good quality of life.All women are at risk for cervical cancer. It occurs most often in women over age 30. Each year, about 12,000 women in the United States get cervical cancer and about 4,000 women die from it.Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the main cause of cervical cancer. HPV is a common virus that is passed from one person to another during sex. At least half of sexually active people will have HPV at some point in their lives, but few women will get cervical cancer.

Cervical Cancer Fact Sheet Downloads

Cervical Cancer [PDF-874KB]
Cáncer de cuello uterino [PDF-640KB]

What are the Risk Factors for Cervical Cancer?

Almost all cervical cancers are caused by human papillomavirus (HPV), a common virus that can be passed from one person to another during sex. There are many types of HPV. Some HPV types can cause changes on a woman’s cervix that can lead to cervical cancer over time, while other types can cause genital or skin warts.

HPV is so common that most people get it at some time in their lives. HPV usually causes no symptoms so you can’t tell that you have it. For most women, HPV will go away on its own; however, if it does not, there is a chance that over time it may cause cervical cancer.

Other things can increase your risk of cervical cancer—

  • Smoking.
  • Having HIV (the virus that causes AIDS) or another condition that makes it hard for your body to fight off health problems.
  • Using birth control pills for a long time (five or more years).
  • Having given birth to three or more children.
  • Having several sexual partners.

Content Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)