What is cervical cancer?
Cervical cancer is a type of gynecologic cancer characterized by the uncontrolled growth and spread of abnormal cells originating in the cervix, which connects the uterus to the birth canal, or vagina. Cervical cancer starts from cells that exhibit pre-cancerous changes.
According to the American Cancer Society, cervical cancer typically occurs in midlife. It is frequently diagnosed in women between the ages of 35 and 44, and it rarely develops in women younger than 20.
What are the different types of cervical cancer?
There are two main types of cervical cancer. The first type is composed of the flat cells that cover the surface of the cervix, while the second type develops inside glandular cells.
- Squamous cell carcinomas develop from cells in the exocervix. Squamous cell carcinomas most often begin where the exocervix (outer surface) joins the endocervix (inner canal). Up to 90% of cervical cancers are squamous cell carcinomas.
- Cervical adenocarcinoma develops from the mucus-producing gland cells of the endocervix and have become more common in the last 30 years.
Though less common, cervical cancer can have features of both squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinomas. These rarer, mixed cancers are called adenosquamous carcinomas. Cervical cancer that has spread to other areas of the body is called metastatic.
What are the symptoms of cervical cancer?
Commonly, women do not know they have cervical cancer or pre-cervical cancer until it has spread into nearby tissue. Cervical cancer symptoms and signs may include vaginal bleeding, unusual vaginal discharge, and pelvic pain during sex.
What are the causes and risk factors of cervical cancer?
Although the following risk factors increase the odds of developing the disease, many women with these risk factors do not develop cervical cancer. However, it is important for women with one or more risk factors to get regular screenings and Pap tests.
Cervical cancer risk factors include:
- Human papillomavirus (HPV)
- Family history of cervical cancer
- Being overweight
- Diethylstilbestrol (DES)
- A weak immune system
- A diet low in fruits and vegetables
- Long-term use of birth control pills (oral contraceptives)
- Intrauterine device (IUD)
- Having multiple full-term pregnancies
- Being younger than 17 at your first full-term pregnancy
- Low economic status
How is cervical cancer diagnosed and treated?
To check for a cervical cancer diagnosis, your doctor will request further examination of your abnormal Pap test result to see if cancer or pre-cancer may be present. These tests may include:
Colposcopy (with biopsy): The method of examining the cervix, vagina, and vulva, a colposcopy is performed with a surgical instrument called a colposcope. A colposcope has magnifying lenses that let a doctor view the surface of the cervix. If abnormal areas exist, the doctor will perform a biopsy. If the biopsy can remove all abnormal tissue, it may be the only required treatment.
Endocervical scraping: In some cases, the colposcope cannot get an adequate view of the cervix. As a result, a doctor will insert a narrow instrument called a curette to scrape the canal and gather a tissue sample.
Cone biopsy: This procedure involves removing a cone-shaped tissue sample from the cervix. The tissue removed in the cone includes tissue from the transformation zone, or the area where cancer and pre-cancer is likely to start.
If a biopsied tissue sample shows pre-cancer or cancer, doctors will take steps to prevent and treat its progression. Cervical cancer treatment depends on the stage of the disease and may include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and targeted therapy.
Cervical Cancer Treatment at Baptist Cancer Center
At Baptist Cancer Center, our gynecologic oncologists offer patients in the Memphis metro area and north Mississippi access to exceptional surgical expertise in women’s care. Baptist board-certified gynecologic oncologists are pioneers in research and practice with specialties in obstetrics, gynecology, and critical care. BCC physicians and specialists are dedicated to fighting your cervical cancer diagnosis with you as a team and providing you with the most comprehensive care possible through radiation, chemotherapy, or surgery.
Our team of experts includes the eighth-busiest surgeon in the U.S. using minimally-invasive surgery techniques, particularly the use of robotic technologies for gynecologic cancers in morbidly obese women. One of the first hospitals in the Mid-South to employ robotic surgery, Baptist Memorial Hospital-Memphis led the way for robotic surgeries at Baptist Cancer Center.
Today, our dedication, experience, and expertise in robotic surgeries helps obese patients fight cancer and heal closer to home. By specializing in robotic surgery for gynecologic cancer care, Baptist Cancer Center gives hope to women with cervical cancer and morbid obesity.