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Cervical Cancer

This year, an estimated 12,820 women will be diagnosed with cervical cancer and each year, more than 12,000 women are diagnosed with invasive cervical cancer and (cancer that has spread from the surface of the cervix to tissue deeper in the cervix or to other body parts) and more than 4,200 will die from the disease.

Cervical cancer used to be one of the most common causes of cancer death in women in the United States. Since the introduction of the Pap test (also called a Pap smear) more than 50 years ago, the rate of death from cervical cancer has decreased dramatically.

You might be at an increased risk for cervical cancer if you are a woman who:

  • Smoking.
  • Having HIV (the virus that causes AIDS) or another condition that makes it hard for your body to fight off health problems.
  • Using birth control pills for a long time (five or more years).
  • Having given birth to three or more children.
  • Having several sexual partners.

Early on, cervical cancer may not cause signs and symptoms. Advanced cervical cancer may cause bleeding or discharge from the vagina that is not normal for you, such as bleeding after sex. If you have any of these signs, see your doctor. They may be caused by something other than cancer, but the only way to know is to see your doctor.

Cervical cancer is highly preventable in most Western countries because screening tests and a vaccine to prevent human papillomavirus (HPV) infections are available. When cervical cancer is found early, it is highly treatable and associated with long survival and good quality of life.

Cervical cancer is the easiest gynecologic cancer to prevent, with regular screening tests and follow-up. Two screening tests can help prevent cervical cancer or find it early—

  • The Pap test (or Pap smear) looks for precancers, cell changes on the cervix that might become cervical cancer if they are not treated appropriately.
  • The HPV test looks for the virus (human papillomavirus) that can cause these cell changes.

Choosing the treatment that is right for you may be hard. Talk to your cancer doctor about the treatment options available for your type and stage of cancer. Your doctor can explain the risks and benefits of each treatment and their side effects. Side effects are how your body reacts to drugs or other treatments.

Sometimes people get an opinion from more than one cancer doctor. This is called a “second opinion.” Getting a second opinion may help you choose the treatment that is right for you.

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