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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.

Chemotherapy primarily aimed at improving length of life while maintaining quality of life for incurable cervical cancer

Cervical cancer often affects young women. Cancer that has come back after initial treatment (recurrent) or has already spread around the body at diagnosis (metastatic) is incurable so chemotherapy is aimed at improving length of life, while maintaining good quality of life. A literature search was conducted identifying 30 potential trials; four trials were excluded. The 26 clinical trials included in this review encompass a large range of different drugs, doses and combinations in a mixed group of patients over a long time period (1976 to 2011), making it difficult to compare treatment options. Although there are no trials directly comparing chemotherapy with symptomatic management alone, chemotherapy is widely used in this setting and assumed to be of benefit. Cisplatin and carboplatin chemotherapy were shown to shrink the cancer in 10% to 30% of patients and are widely used in current practice. Cisplatin chemotherapy when combined with other drugs has been shown to prolong survival by a few months compared with cisplatin alone, but with the cost of increased side effects. Other chemotherapy has been used, but has been found to be less effective or more toxic. Quality of life for patients on chemotherapy appears to be similar for cisplatin and cisplatin‐based combinations. Nearly all patients in these studies were relatively fit and well prior to starting treatment, despite their cancer; these results may not be the same in patients who are not fit and well.

Adjuvant (supplementary treatment after initial treatment) platinum‐based anti‐cancer drugs for early stage cervical cancer

Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer among women. Most women with early stage cervical cancer (stages I to IIA) are cured with surgery or, radiotherapy, or both. Radiotherapy uses high energy x‐rays to damage tumour cells. Chemotherapy (anti‐cancer) drugs use different ways to stop tumour cells dividing so they stop growing or they die.

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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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