Cervical cancer, linked to various strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV), is one of the most common reproductive cancers in women. HPV is a sexually transmitted infection that is thought to cause most cases of cervical cancer. Most women who are exposed to HPV never experience any ill effects from the virus.
However, a small percentage of women who are exposed will develop cervical cancer. Typically, cervical cancer develops slowly, and the precancerous changes in the cervix can be detected with regular Pap test screenings before cancer develops.
Because women are becoming more educated about the importance of Pap test screening for cervical cancer, the death rate has decreased over the last 50 years. However, according to the American Cancer Society, in the United States, more than 11,000 women are diagnosed with invasive cervical cancer, and nearly 4,000 die every year.
Even young women can get cervical cancer
Half of all cervical cancer occurs in women between the ages of 35 and 55. Although it typically develops very slowly, it sometimes doesn’t produce any symptoms until the late stages of the disease.
Today, Pap screenings are the most effective way to find pre-cancerous cervical dysplasia before it develops into cervical cancer. If cervical dysplasia is detected and treated correctly, cervical cancer will rarely develop.
However, if pre-cancerous changes of the cervix go undetected, they can develop into cancer that can spread to other parts of the body, such as the bladder, intestines, lungs and liver.