How Cervical Cancer Develops
Cervical cancer starts with cancerous cells that begin to grow on the surface of the cervix.this cancer grows slowly, and precancerous, or abnormal, cervical cells can usually be detected by a Pap smear long before cancer develops.When cervical cells begin to change from normal cells to abnormal ones, the condition is called dysplasia.Dysplasia is not cancer, since dysplastic cells do not spread to nearby tissues the way cancerous cells do. Although dysplasia sometimes goes away without treatment, it may develop into this cancer if left untreated.
Cervical Cancer and HPV
Scientists now know that there is a connection between HPV (human papilloma virus) and cervical cancer. But while many women develop HPV infections, relatively few with HPV will develop this cancer.”There is very strong evidence that you have to have chronic HPV infection” to develop cervical cancer, says Marcela G. del Carmen, MD, MPH, clinical director of the Gillette Center for Gynecologic Oncology at the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center and an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School.If you have HPV, it’s even more important to get regular Pap tests. “If you are getting screened, you detect precancerous changes by the Pap test,” Dr. del Carmen says.
Cervical Cancer facts
- More than 12,000 new cases of this cancer will be diagnosed this year and about 4000 will die as a result.
- Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer world-wide.
- Cervical cancer is highly preventable. In the United States the death rate attributed to this cancer is declining secondary to wide spread use of preventive strategies.
- Cervical cancer is typically a slowly developing cancer. There are tests available that diagnose precancerous changes and those at risk of developing this cancer. These tests include the cervical pap smear and human papilloma virus.
- Infection with Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) is closely linked to the development of cancer.
- There is a vaccine that decreases your risk of infection with Human Papilloma Virus.
- There are lifestyle changes you can make to decrease your risk of developing cancer:
- Limit number of sexual partner.
- Exercise regularly
- Eat a healthy diet
- Don’t smoke
- Other factors associated with increased risk of developing this cancer include:
- Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection
- Weakened immune system
- Exposure to diethylstilbestrol (DES) during your mother’s pregnancy
- Screening for this cancer should begin at age 21. Your provider will help you determine types of tests and interval of testing that is appropriate for you.
- In summary:
- Minimize risk factors for developing cancer.
- Screening for cancer of the cervix is important.
- Talk to your health care provider about screening for cervical cancer.