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Cancer that forms in tissues of the cervix (the organ connecting the uterus and vagina). It is usually a slow-growing cancer that may not have symptoms but can be found with regular Pap tests (a procedure in which cells are scraped from the cervix and looked at under a microscope). Cervical cancer is almost always caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) infection.
The cervix is the lower, narrow end of the uterus (the hollow, pear-shaped organ where a fetus grows). The cervix leads from the uterus to the vagina (birth canal).
Anatomy of the female reproductive system. The organs in the female reproductive system include the uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes, cervix, and vagina. The uterus has a muscular outer layer called the myometrium and an inner lining called the endometrium.
Cervical cancer usually develops slowly over time. Before cancer appears in the cervix, the cells of the cervix go through changes known as dysplasia, in which cells that are not normal begin to appear in the cervical tissue. Later, cancer cells start to grow and spread more deeply into the cervix and to surrounding areas.Cervical cancer in children is rare.
Squamous cells are the flat, skin like cells that cover the outer surface of the cervix (the ectocervix). Around 7 to 8 out of 10 cervical cancers are squamous cell cancer (70 to 80%).
Adenomatous cells are gland cells that produce mucus. The cervix has these gland cells scattered along the inside of the passageway that runs from the cervix to the womb (the endocervical canal). Adenocarcinoma is a cancer of these gland cells. It is less common than squamous cell cancer, but has become more common in recent years. More than 1 in 10 cervical cancers are adenocarcinoma (10 to 15%). It is treated in the same way as squamous cell cancer of the cervix.
Undifferentiated carcinoma is a usually aggressive, malignant epithelial neoplasm composed of atypical cells which do not display evidence of glandular, squamous, or urothelial cell differentiation
Small cell cancer of the cervix is a very rare type of cancer that starts in the neck of the womb, it is also known as small cell neuroendocrine carcinoma. Fewer than 3 in 100 women (3%) diagnosed with cervical cancer will have this type. It is called small cell because under a microscope the cells appear small, round or egg shaped, with a large nucleus.Small cell cancers tend to grow quickly and need to be treated early. Due to the rarity and little research available on the disease, a distinct cause for small cell cancer of the cervix is yet to be found, although, like other types of cervical cancer, small cell cervical cancer is associated with the human papilloma virus (HPV) especially HPV 18. Small cell cervical cancer can also be found in combination with other more common forms of cervical cancer, such as squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma. However, small cell cervical cancer is faster growing and more aggressive than the other types of cervical cancer.
Cervical NETs are usually only diagnosed when tissue is studied for signs of more common cancers in these areas. There are two main types - neuroendocrine tumours and neuroendocrine carcinomas. Both are neuroendocrine cancers but neuroendocrine carcinomas are more aggressive.
For more information on cervical NETs, click here for a fact sheet from NET Patient Foundation (UK).
Small cell cervical cancer is more likely to present without symptoms than other types of cervical cancer. However if it does present with symptoms they are the same as those of other cervical cancers, including:
There is some evidence to suggest that on average women diagnosed with small cell cervical cancer tend to be younger than those diagnosed with other cervical cancers.
Small cell cervical cancer is usually diagnosed by biopsy, which involves the removal of a small piece of tissue from the cervix and subsequent examination by a pathologist.
Anything that increases your risk of getting a disease is called a risk factor. Having a risk factor does not mean that you will get cancer; not having risk factors doesn't mean that you will not get cancer. Talk with your doctor if you think you may be at risk.Infection of the cervix with human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common cause of cervical cancer. Not all women with HPV infection, however, will develop cervical cancer. Women who do not regularly have a Pap smear to detect HPV or abnormal cells in the cervix are at increased risk of cervical cancer.Other possible risk factors include the following:
Early cervical cancer may not cause noticeable signs or symptoms. Women should have regular check-ups, including a Pap smear to check for abnormal cells in the cervix. The prognosis (chance of recovery) is better when the cancer is found early.
These and other symptoms may be caused by cervical cancer. Other conditions may cause the same symptoms. Check with your doctor if you have any of the following problems:
The following procedures may be used:
Pelvic exam. A doctor or nurse inserts one or two lubricated, gloved fingers of one hand into the vagina and presses on the lower abdomen with the other hand. This is done to feel the size, shape, and position of the uterus and ovaries. The vagina, cervix, fallopian tubes, and rectum are also checked.
Pap smear. A speculum is inserted into the vagina to widen it. Then, a brush is inserted into the vagina to collect cells from the cervix. The cells are checked under a microscope for signs of disease.
The prognosis (chance of recovery) depends on the following:
Treatment options depend on the following:
Treatment of cervical cancer during pregnancy depends on the stage of the cancer and the stage of the pregnancy. For cervical cancer found early or for cancer found during the last trimester of pregnancy, treatment may be delayed until after the baby is born.
For more information on Cervical Cancer click here
This link is to the National Cancer Institute (NCI) cancer website in the United States. There may be references to drugs and clinical trials that are not available here in Australia.
Information has also been sourced from cancerresearchuk.org and jostrust.org.uk
For information courtesy of Cancer Australia, please click here
Page last updated: 07/05/2020