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Cervical cancer

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The cervix is the lower part of a woman’s uterus (womb). It's where the fetus grows during pregnancy. 

Tumors are cancerous or noncancerous growths that form when too many cells grow. When too many cancer cells grow in this part of the body, a cancerous tumor can form. Cervical cancer can also spread to other parts of the body.

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FAQs

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  • The main cause of cervical cancer is having a type of infection called human papillomavirus (HPV). Usually cervical cancer grows over many years. 

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  • Signs of cervical cancer can include:

    • Discharge or liquid from the vagina that’s not normal
    • Bleeding or spotting that’s not normal
    • Menstrual periods that aren’t normal 
    • Pain in the pelvic area 
    • Problems with passing urine
    • Swelling in the legs

    These symptoms can happen for other reasons besides cancer. If you have symptoms like those listed above, you should talk to your provider to find out the reason. 

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  • There are many ways your doctor may find cervical cancer. Your doctor will do a Pap test. Depending on the results of that test, your doctor may also do one or more of the following:

    • A physical exam, including a pelvic exam to check on the uterus, ovaries and parts of the body near the cervix 
    • A biopsy (taking a sample of tissue from your body and testing it) 

    Sometimes more exams that use a tube that bends easily with a lens at the end are needed. Those exams are called: 

    • A cystoscopy to see inside the urethra (how urine leaves the bladder) and the bladder
    • A colonoscopy to see inside the large intestine 
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  • Cervical cancer used to be the most common cancer to cause death in women. With more Pap tests being done in the last 40 years, death rates have gone down. 

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  • If you have or have had HPV, you have a greater chance of getting cervical cancer. You chances for getting HPV go up if you have:

    • Multiple sexual partners
    • A sexual partner who has had multiple sexual partners
    • Sex at an early age or younger than 18 

    Your chances of getting cervical cancer go up if you have: 

    • A personal history of abnormal cells in the cervix, vagina or vulva
    • A family history of cervical cancer
    • Smoked cigarettes 
    • Had certain sexually transmitted infections (STIs), such as chlamydia
    • Problems with your immune system or how the body fights illness 
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  • The most important thing you can do is get regular screening tests. Ask your doctor when and how often you should be tested. Two tests that are helpful in finding cervical cancer are: 

    • Pap test (sometimes called Pap smear) which looks for cell changes on the cervix that could show cancer
    • HPV test which also looks for cell changes 

    There is more you can do to help lessen your chances of getting cervical cancer:

    • Get the HPV vaccine
    • Don’t smoke
    • Use protection during sex
    • Limit your number of sexual partners
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  • How we care for cervical cancer depends on many factors: 

    • Type of cancer
    • Size of the cancer
    • Where the cancer is located in the body 
    • Stage of cancer 

    Your doctor will work with you to find the right care plan for you. Some examples of treatment include:

    • Surgery to remove cancer 
    • Hysterectomy (surgery to remove the uterus)
    • Chemotherapy (using medication to make the cancer smaller or to kill cancer cells) 
    • Radiation (using X-rays to kill cancer cells)
    • Cryosurgery (using cold temperatures to freeze or kill cancer cells)
    • Targeted therapy (using drugs to stop cancer cells from growing and spreading)
    • Immunotherapy (using the body’s immune system that naturally fights illness)
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