Diagnosing and Treating Cervical Cancer
From diagnosis to surgery and chemotherapy, gynecologic oncologists provide comprehensive care for cervical cancer. Services include cancer screening, early detection, therapy and post-treatment surveillance. If you need surgery, we use minimally invasive laparoscopic, or robotic techniques whenever possible.
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What is Cervical Cancer?
Cervical cancer begins in the cervix, which is the lower, narrow end of the uterus. (The uterus is also called the womb.)
- Most cervical cancers begin in an area called the transformation zone. This is where the inner part of the cervix closest to the uterus (the endocervix) meets the outer part of the cervix closest to the vagina (the ectocervix).
- Infection with the human papilloma virus (HPV) is the main risk factor for cervical cancer, causing more than 90 percent of cervical cancers diagnosed in the Unites States. This virus is so common that it affects nearly 70 percent of sexually active women.
What is My Risk for Cervical Cancer?
Can you answer yes to any of these questions:
- Have you ever been infected with Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)?
- Have you or your partner had sex with more than one person?
- Do you smoke?
- Do you eat less than two cups of fruits and vegetables every day?
- Do you use oral contraceptives?
- Were you younger than 17 when you first gave birth?
If I have some of these risk factors will I get cervical cancer?
Remember, having one or more of these risk factors does not mean you will get cervical cancer. However, if you have one or more risk factors, you should schedule regular PAP and HPV tests starting at 21. Your doctor can find and remove abnormal cells before they develop into cancer.
In 2016 the American Cancer Society estimates that there will be 12,990 new cases of cervical cancer diagnoses and 4,120 women will lose their fight against the disease.
What Symptoms Should I Look For?
Cervical cancer presents a special challenge because you may not notice any signs or symptoms, especially when the condition is in its earliest stages. Because it can stay “hidden,” it is important to start getting regular cervical cancer screening at age 21, regardless of how old you were when you first had sexual intercourse.
If you do have symptoms, they may include:
- Pain or bleeding during or after sex, douching or a pelvic examination
- Pelvic pain
- Unusual vaginal discharge
- Blood or bleeding beyond your normal menstrual period
Since other conditions can cause these symptoms as well, it is important to see your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms.
How Can I Prevent Cervical Cancers?
- Get the HPV vaccine. It protects against the types of HPV that most often cause cervical, vaginal, and vulvar cancers. If you are between the ages of 9 and 26, talk to your doctor about the HPV vaccine.
- Take steps to reduce your risk of getting HPV or HIV, such as avoiding sex or limiting your number of sexual partners.