Cervix, cancer of

One of the most common cancers affecting women worldwide. Cancer of the cervix has well-defined precancerous stages (see cervical dysplasia) that can be detected by a cervical smear test, allowing, in many cases, early treatment and a complete cure. Untreated, cancer of the cervix may spread to the organs in the pelvis. There are 2 main types of cervical cancer: the squamous type is the most common and is thought to be associated with the human papilloma virus, acquired during sexual intercourse. Factors that predispose to this type of cancer are smoking, starting to have sex at an early age, and having many sexual partners. The second, rarer, type of cervical cancer, adenocarcinoma, sometimes occurs in women who have never had sexual intercourse. Its causes are unclear. Symptoms do not develop until the condition is advanced, when there is vaginal bleeding or a bloodstained discharge at unexpected times, and pain if the cancer has spread within the pelvis. Following an abnormal smear test result, colposcopy or a cone biopsy may be carried out to diagnose the condition. A localized early cancer may be destroyed by electrocoagulation, diathermy, laser treatment, or cryosurgery. If the cancer has spread into the cervical canal, a cone biopsy may be sufficient to remove all the diseased tissue. In more advanced cases affecting the pelvic organs, radiotherapy may be given. Radical surgery, in which the bladder, vagina, cervix, uterus, and rectum are removed, may be recommended in certain cases.


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