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- Patient Comments: Cervical Cancer - Risk Factors
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- Cervical cancer facts
- What is cervical cancer?
- How do women get cervical cancer? What causes cervical cancer?
- What are the symptoms and signs of cervical cancer?
- What are the risk factors for cervical cancer?
- What are cervical cancer screening guidelines?
- What tests are used to diagnose cervical cancer?
- What are the stages of cervical cancer?
- What is the treatment for cervical cancer?
- What are methods of treatment for cervical cancer?
- Can cervical cancer be prevented? What is the cervical cancer vaccine?
- What kind of support is available to women with cervical cancer?
- What is the prognosis and survival rates for women with cervical cancer?
- What research is being done on cervical cancer?
Quick GuideCervical Cancer Symptoms, Treatment, HPV and Prevention
What is cervical cancer?
How do women get cervical cancer? What causes cervical cancer?
Almost all cervical cancers are caused by longstanding infection with one of the HPVs. HPV infection is very common, and most people with HPV infection do not develop cancer. There are over 100 types of HPVs, and only certain types have been linked to cancers. Other HPV types cause benign warts on the skin or genitals. The so-called “high risk” HPV types have been shown to cause cancers of the cervix as well as cancers of the penis in men. HPVs can also cause cancers of the mouth, throat, and anus in people of both sexes.
HPV infection is spread through sexual contact or skin-to-skin contact. Many studies have shown that HPV infection is common and that a majority of people will be infected with HPV at some point in life. The infection typically resolves on its own. In some women, the HPV infection persists and causes precancerous changes in the cells of the cervix. These changes can be detected by regular cervical cancer screening (known as Pap testing). With Pap testing, a superficial sample of cells from the cervix is taken with a brush or swab during a routine pelvic examination and sent to a laboratory for analysis of the cells' appearance.
Dysplasia is abnormal-appearing cells that are not cancers but may be precancerous. Dysplasia of the cervix identified at the time of Pap testing is referred to as a squamous intraepithelial lesion (SIL). Cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN) is another term used to classify precancerous changes in the cervix that are seen on tissue samples such as biopsies. Precancerous changes in the cervix such as CIN and SIL can typically be treated, which can prevent the development of cancer.
The cervix itself contains two types of cells- the lining cells of the outer cervix, known as squamous cells, and the cells that line the interior channel of the cervix. These interior cells have features of glandular cells. The point at which the squamous and glandular cells meet is known as the transition zone, and it is in this area that most cervical precancers and cancers begin to grow. Up to 90% of cervical cancers arise from the squamous cells and are called squamous cell carcinomas, with most of the remainder coming from the glandular cells (adenocarcinomas).