Q. What is cervical cancer?
A. Cervical cancer is a serious disease in which some cells in your cervix become abnormal (unhealthy), multiply out of control, and can damage healthy parts of your body. The cervix is the lower part of the uterus (womb) that opens into the vagina (birth canal). Many women get cervical cancer every year. Women have the best chance of getting better when the disease is found early.
Q. Are there tests to check for cervical cancer?
A. Yes. There is a quick and easy test called a Pap smear that checks for cervical cancer. Your doctor uses a small brush to take some cells from inside and outside of the cervix. The cells will be checked to see if they are healthy. If the cells are abnormal or unhealthy, your doctor may have you take more tests to check for cervical cancer. You should get a Pap smear every year as part of your routine pelvic exam.
Q. What are the signs of cervical cancer?
A. There are no obvious signs of cervical cancer. It tends to grow slowly over time. That’s why getting a Pap smear every year is so important. The Pap smear can find cells on your cervix that may be changing or be early signs of cancer.
Q. What are the treatments for cervical cancer?
A. The treatment you get depends on the size, kind, and location of the cancer; your age; your health; and your desire to have children. Sometimes treatment for cervical cancer can be delayed in a pregnant woman until after she has given birth. There are three kinds of treatment for cervical cancer.
- Surgery – taking out the cancer in an operation.
- Radiation therapy – using high-dose x-rays to kill cancer cells.
- Chemotherapy – using medicine to kill cancer cells.
Q. Why are some women more likely to get cervical cancer than other women?
A. Any woman can get cervical cancer. However, doctors know that your chances of getting cervical cancer increase with the following:
- If you begin having sex before you are 18.
- If you have had sex with many partners.
- If you have or have had HPV (Human Papillomavirus).
- If you have or have had a sexually transmitted disease (STD).
- If you have of have had sex partners with STDs or HIV/AIDS.
- If you are over 60.
- If you smoke.
- If you have poor nutrition.