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Cervical Cancer Awareness

by Sherry Mistro-Henn
Medically Reviewed by B. Stephens Dudley, M.D.

This year, almost 13,000 women in the US will be diagnosed with cervical cancer. Cervical cancer is defined as cancer found at the lower end of the uterus, between the uterus and vagina. It is the only gynecological cancer that can be diagnosed by a screening test, and when detected early, can be effectively treated.

Almost all cervical cancers are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), commonly passed from one person to the next through sexual contact. Other factors that can increase risk of cervical cancer are smoking, HIV virus, prolonged use of birth control pills and having several sexual partners.

Some early symptoms of cervical cancer can be abdominal discomfort and unusual vaginal bleeding. Annual screening tests, PAP smear and HPV testing can prevent or detect it early enough to successfully treat it.

Treatment options for cervical cancer include surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. Surgical treatment removes the cancer tissue, chemotherapy can shrink or kill the cancer cells, and radiation uses high-energy rays to kill them. Treatment can be any, or a combination, of these options.

New treatments developing for the treatment of cervical cancer are immunotherapy and vaccination. Immunotherapy is designed to boost the body’s natural defenses to fight cancer. Vaccines are being developed to program the immune system to detect cancer and destroy it. Targeted therapy seeks out the actual genetic makeup of the cancer cells and then blocks them from growing.

Vaccines against the HPV virus and regular check-ups and screenings will be the best defense against many forms of cervical cancer.

Center for Disease Control and Prevention