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Cervical Cancer

Cancer that forms in tissues of the cervix (the organ connecting the uterus and vagina).

PubMed Health Glossary
(Source: NIH - National Cancer Institute)

About Cervical Cancer

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).

Cervical cancer usually develops slowly over time. 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 to surrounding areas.

Cervical cancer in children is rare. For more information, see the PDQ summary on Unusual Cancers of Childhood.

Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection is the major risk factor for cervical cancer.

Anything that increases your risk of getting a disease is called a risk factor. Having a risk factor does not mean that you... Read more about Cervical Cancer

What works? Research summarized

Evidence reviews

Venous Thromboembolism: Reducing the Risk of Venous Thromboembolism (Deep Vein Thrombosis and Pulmonary Embolism) in Patients Admitted to Hospital

Venous thromboembolism (VTE) is a term used to include the formation of a blood clot (a thrombus) in a vein which may dislodge from its site of origin to travel in the blood, a phenomenon called embolism. A thrombus most commonly occurs in the deep veins of the legs; this is called deep vein thrombosis. A dislodged thrombus that travels to the lungs is known as a pulmonary embolism.

Benefit assessment of HPV testing in primary screening for cervical cancer: Executive summary of final report S10-01, Version 1.0

The main goal of this research was ■ the comparative benefit assessment of screening strategies for cervical cancer, that is, a strategy including HPV testing alone or in combination with cytology-based testing in primary screening versus a strategy that exclusively applied cytology-based testing in primary screening.

Screening for Cervical Cancer: A Systematic Evidence Review for the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force [Internet]

We undertook this systematic review to assist the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) in updating its 2003 recommendation on cervical cancer screening. During the planning phase of this evidence review on cervical cancer screening, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) decided to fund a separate modeling study to be conducted simultaneously. The USPSTF determined that the scope for both the systematic review and the modeling study would focus on important clinical questions that could inform effective use of screening in practice. This systematic review focuses on when to begin screening and on updating test accuracy and harms data on liquid-based cytology (LBC) and human papillomavirus (HPV) testing, either alone or in combination with cytology. The modeling study focuses on the effectiveness of strategies that use different ages at which to begin screening and different screening intervals.1 These two reports are intended to provide the USPSTF with complementary information to update its recommendation on cervical cancer screening.

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Summaries for consumers

Cervical cancer: What benefits do HPV tests have for screening?

Women could benefit from having an HPV test in addition to, or instead of, conventional Pap tests as part of cancer screening.

Cervical cancer: Cell changes in the cervix (dysplasia)

Regular cervical screening means that non-cancerous abnormal cells are detected in many women, in the mucous membranes lining the area around the cervical opening. The medical term for these abnormal cells is dysplasia. They are not dangerous and usually go back to normal again without treatment.In Germany dysplasia is classified into three grades, depending on the outcome of the tissue sample examination (biopsy): “low-grade dysplasia,” “moderate dysplasia” and “high-grade dysplasia.” Doctors often talk about “CIN” grades. This is an abbreviation for “cervical intraepithelial neoplasia.” CIN 1 describes low-grade dysplasia, CIN 2 describes moderate dysplasia, and CIN 3 describes high-grade dysplasia.In all of the different grades of dysplasia, the abnormal cells are only found in the uppermost layer of cells. But in high-grade dysplasia the cells sometimes look like cancer cells. If cancer cells have developed but have not spread it is called a “carcinoma in situ” (in situ is Latin and means “in its original place”). Cervical cancer is said to be invasive if the abnormal mucous membrane cells have spread from the uppermost cell layer to the tissue beneath it.

Cervical cancer: Overview

Cervical cancer is nearly always a rare consequence of an infection with particular sexually transmitted human papillomaviruses (HPV). Infections are probably just as common in men as they are in women. But men are even less likely than women to develop health problems as a result of the infection, such as cancer. In this topic you can find information about which risk factors play a role, how cervical cancer develops, and how precancerous conditions are diagnosed and treated.

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Terms to know

The lower, narrow end of the uterus that forms a canal between the uterus and vagina.
Neoplasm (Tumor)
An abnormal mass of tissue that results when cells divide more than they should or do not die when they should. Neoplasms may be benign (not cancer), or malignant (cancer). Also called tumor.
Uterus (Womb)
The small, hollow, pear-shaped organ in a woman's pelvis. This is the organ in which a fetus develops. Also called womb.
The muscular canal that goes from the uterus to the outside of the body. During birth, the baby passes through the vagina.

More about Cervical Cancer

Photo of a young adult woman

Also called: Malignant tumour of the cervix, Malignant neoplasm of the cervix uteri, Malignant tumor of the cervix, Malignant neoplasm of the cervix

Other terms to know: See all 4
Cervix, Neoplasm (Tumor), Uterus (Womb)

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