Women's Health Matters

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Cervical cancer begins in the cervix, the lower part of the uterus, which connects the uterus to the vagina. It does not form immediately but often takes many years to develop. Most of the women who develop cervical cancer have not been screened during the three years prior to their diagnosis.

Abnormal cells that develop on the cervix can be identified with a Pap test. Abnormal, precancerous cells are called cervical dysplasia. The majority of cases of cervical dysplasia are caused by the human papillomavirus, which is transmitted by genital skin contact. Although dysplasia may disappear without treatment, in a small number of cases, it will progress to cervical cancer, if it is not detected and treated when necessary.

diagram of ovaries, uterus, cervix

In its early stages, cervical cancer is almost always curable.

Abnormal cells can be identified with a Pap smear.

There are two main types of cervical cancer:

Squamous cell carcinoma is the most common type, making up 80 to 90 percent of cases. This cancer results from the uncontrolled growth of the flat cells on the surface of the cervix.

Adenocarcinoma results from the abnormal growth of the mucus-producing gland cells of the cervix. This type of cancer accounts for most of the remaining 10 to 20 percent of cases of cervical cancer.

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  • A publication of:
  • Women's College Hospital