Cervical cancer is a cancer that forms in tissues of the cervix (the narrow neck of the uterus). It is almost always caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. Each year more than 10,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with invasive cervical cancer, and nearly 4,000 die of the disease.
Symptoms of Cervical Cancer
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding after sexual intercourse, between regular menstrual periods or after menopause
- Increased vaginal discharge
- Pelvic pain or pain during sexual intercourse
Risk Factors of Cervical Cancer
- HPV infection: passed through sexual contact.
- Multiple sexual partners
- Early sexual activity (before age 18)
How Cervical Cancer is Diagnosed
Early cervical cancer generally produces no signs or symptoms, but can be found with screening Pap test - cells are scraped or brushed from the cervix and examined for abnormalities. The cells may also be sent for HPV DNA test to find out if you have been exposed to certain types of HPV that can sometimes lead to cervical cancer.
If you have abnormal PAP or HPV test results, your doctor may perform:
- Colposcopy: examine your cervix for abnormal cells with a special microscope.
- Biopsy: The doctor removes a sample of unusual cells from your cervix using a biopsy instrument.
- Cone biopsy (conization) or LEEP (Loop electrosurgical excision procedure): Remove a cone-shaped area of cervical cells. This procedure allows your doctor to obtain deeper layers of cervical cells for testing.
Treatment Options for Cervical Cancer at Tufts Medical Center
- Surgery: Depending on the extent of the cancer, you may undergo cone biopsy, hysterectomy (remove the uterus), or radical hysterectomy (remove the uterus, cervix and upper vagina) and removal of lymph nodes in the pelvis.
- Radiation therapy: using high-energy x-rays to kill the cancer cells. It may be given either outside the body (external radiation therapy) or inside the body (internal radiation therapy).
- Chemotherapy: using one or a combination of drugs to kill the cancer cells.
Programs + Services
Contact the Gynecologic Cancer Care Program and learn more about treatment for ovarian cancer, malignancies of the uterus, cervix, and more at Tufts Medical Center in Boston.