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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.

Surgery or radiotherapy for early cervical cancer of the adenocarcinoma type

Early‐stage cervical cancer of the common type, squamous cell carcinoma, has the same prognosis after primary surgery or radiotherapy. For cervical cancer of the glandular cell type (adenocarcinoma) we recommend surgery. Second best alternative for patients unfit for surgery is chemoradiation. For patients with suspected positive lymph nodes, chemoradiation is probably the first choice.

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.

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Summaries for consumers

Surgery or radiotherapy for early cervical cancer of the adenocarcinoma type

Early‐stage cervical cancer of the common type, squamous cell carcinoma, has the same prognosis after primary surgery or radiotherapy. For cervical cancer of the glandular cell type (adenocarcinoma) we recommend surgery. Second best alternative for patients unfit for surgery is chemoradiation. For patients with suspected positive lymph nodes, chemoradiation is probably the first choice.

Better survival and reduced distant recurrence rate with combined chemotherapy and radiotherapy for cervical cancer

Evidence suggests giving chemotherapy and radiotherapy together improves overall survival, whether or not cisplatin was used. The effect appeared to be greater in trials including a high proportion of patients with early stage disease. Combined chemotherapy/radiotherapy also delayed tumour recurrence and reduced the risk of re‐growth near the original cancer site as well as in other parts of the body. There was an increase in side‐effects, principally affecting the blood and bowel, but these generally only lasted a short time. Long‐term effects were poorly reported.

Chemoradiotherapy for cervical cancer:  results of a meta‐analysis

Women with cervical cancer that is too big to be removed by surgery, or has spread to the tissues around the cervix (often called locally advanced cervical cancer) may be treated with radiotherapy (treatment with x‐rays). They might also get chemotherapy (drug treatment) alongside radiotherapy. This is called chemoradiotherapy (or chemoradiation). This review brought together 18 randomised controlled trials (RCTs) that were carried out in many countries. The results of the review showed that women who had chemoradiotherapy for cervical cancer were likely to live for longer than women who had just radiotherapy. Five years after being treated, 66 out of every 100 women who received chemoradiotherapy were still alive compared with 60 out of every 100 who just had radiotherapy. Women who received chemoradiotherapy were also less likely to have the cancer come back or spread to other parts of the body. Chemoradiotherapy helped all women, even those with bigger tumours, or tumours that had spread more. Also, the different drugs that had been used in the trials (cisplatin, 5‐fluourouracil or mitomycin‐C) all helped women to live longer or stop the cancer from coming back or spreading.  Some of the short term side effects were worse for women who received chemoradiotherapy. Doctors can usually help women to cope with the short term side effects of their treatment. Unfortunately, there was not enough information to be certain whether the long‐term side effects are worse with chemoradiotherapy or not.

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Terms to know

Cervix
The lower, narrow end of the uterus that forms a canal between the uterus and vagina.
Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
A type of virus that can cause abnormal tissue growth (for example, warts) and other changes to cells.
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.
Vagina
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

See Also: Human Papillomavirus Infection

Other terms to know: See all 5
Cervix, Human Papillomavirus (HPV), Neoplasm (Tumor)

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