Note: The information on cancer types on the ACRF website is not designed to provide medical or professional advice and is for information only. If you have any health problems or questions please consult your doctor.
Cervical cancer arises from the tissues of the cervix– the opening of the uterus extending into the upper end of the vagina. It usually grows slowly, over many years.
The cervix is covered by two kinds of cells: squamous and glandular. The squamous cells are flat, thin cells found in the outer layer of the cervix. The glandular cells are found in the cervical canal.
Before true cancer cells develop, the cervix tissues undergo changes called dysplasmia, or pre-cancers, which can be detected in a pap test. If left untreated, these pre-cancers can become cancerous.
The two main types of cervical cancer are:
Cervical cancer can be micro-invasive or invasive:
Pre-cancerous stages of cervical cancer rarely show any signs. If these abnormal cells do become cancerous the most common symptoms include:
If any of these symptoms arise it is best to speak with a GP.
A pap test will detect early cell changes in the cervix which could potentially develop into cervical cancer. There are different types of early cell changes:
If a pap test does come back as abnormal then your doctor will recommend one of these actions:
If a pap smear does detect changes, more tests and possibly treatment will be needed. Doctors may advise some or all of the following to confirm diagnosis:
After cervical cancer is diagnosed, one or more of the following tests are used to determine the extent and severity of the cancer (its stage):
Once the stage is determined the most appropriate treatment can be discussed.
For small pre-invasive tumours found within the cervix, surgery is the most common treatment. If the tumour is very small a cone biopsy may be advised to surgically remove the cone-shaped tissue containing the cancer.
Laser surgery, which uses a narrow beam of intense light to kill the cancerous cells, is another option.
Loop excision, in which an electrical current is passed through a thin wire loop to remove the cells may also be used.
If the tumour is more developed, a total or radical hysterectomy, involving the surgical removal of the uterus, may be required.
Radiotherapy, which uses x-rays to kill or injure cancer cells so they cannot multiply, and chemotherapy, which uses drugs to kill or slow their growth, are often combined to make treatment of this disease more effective.
Long term infection with certain types of the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) is now known to be the cause of almost all cervical cancers. Almost all abnormal pap test results are caused by HPV.
HPV is commonly spread by sexual contact as many people may not be aware of any signs or symptoms. HPV does not always lead to cervical cancer. However, if the virus persists and is left undetected, the viral cells can become cancerous.
In 2006, Professor Ian Frazer and his team at the University of Queensland discovered a vaccine to prevent HPV, protecting women against most types of cervical cancer.
Recently it was reported that there has been an incredible 93% drop in genital wart diagnoses (symptoms of the human papillomavirus) in young women who have received the HPV, or cervical cancer, vaccine since 2007.
The vaccine has also begun to be administered to young males as it has been found to help prevent cancers of the genital tract, some types of head and neck cancers, and it will also enhance the vaccine’s effectiveness in women.
The research was kick-started with an ACRF grant in 1999.
new cases are estimated to be diagnosed in 2018
is the five-year survival rate for cervical cancer
years is the median age of cervical cancer diagnosis
Together we can change the statistics and
outsmart cancer for good
Cancer in Australia 2017, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare
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