Cervical cancer is a cancer arising from the cervix. It is due to the abnormal growth of cells that have the ability to invade or spread to other parts of the body. Early on, typically no symptoms are seen. Later symptoms may include abnormal vaginal bleeding, pelvic pain or pain during sexual intercourse. While bleeding after sex may not be serious, it may also indicate the presence of cervical cancer.
Human papillomavirus infection (HPV) causes more than 90% of cases; most who have had HPV infections, however, do not develop cervical cancer. HPV 16 and 18 strains are responsible for nearly 50% of high grade cervical pre-cancers. Other risk factors include smoking, a weak immune system, birth control pills, starting sex at a young age, and having many sexual partners, but these are less important. Genetic factors also contribute to cervical cancer risk. Cervical cancer typically develops from precancerous changes called cervical intraepithelial neoplasia over 10 to 20 years. About 90% of cervical cancer cases are squamous cell carcinomas, 10% are adenocarcinoma, and a small number are other types. Diagnosis is typically by cervical screening followed by a biopsy. Medical imaging is then done to determine whether or not the cancer has spread.
HPV vaccines protect against two to seven high-risk strains of this family of viruses and may prevent up to 90% of cervical cancers. As a risk of cancer still exists, guidelines recommend continuing regular Pap tests. Other methods of prevention include having few or no sexual partners and the use of condoms. Cervical cancer screening using the Pap test or acetic acid can identify precancerous changes, which when treated, can prevent the development of cancer. Treatment may consist of some combination of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. Five-year survival rates in the United States are 68%. Outcomes, however, depend very much on how early the cancer is detected.
Worldwide, cervical cancer is both the fourth-most common type of cancer and the fourth-most common cause of death from cancer in women. In 2012, an estimated 528,000 cases of cervical cancer occurred, with 266,000 deaths. This is about 8% of the total cases and total deaths from cancer. About 70% of cervical cancers and 90% of deaths occur in developing countries. In low-income countries, it is one of the most common causes of cancer death with an incidence rate of 47.3 per 100,000 women. In developed countries, the widespread use of cervical screening programs has dramatically reduced rates of cervical cancer. Expected scenarios for the reduction of mortality due to cervical cancer worldwide (and specially in low-income countries) have been reviewed, given assumptions with respect to the achievement of recommended prevention targets using triple-intervention strategies defined by WHO. In medical research, the most famous immortalized cell line, known as HeLa, was developed from cervical cancer cells of a woman named Henrietta Lacks.