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Cervical cancer

Cervical cancer Cervical cancer (also called cancer of the cervix) is when abnormal cells in the lining of your cervix grow in an uncontrolled way.

Your cervix is the entrance to your womb (uterus) at the top of your vagina.

Cervical cancer develops slowly over time, usually over many years.

Causes of cervical cancer

The most common cause of cervical cancer is human papilloma virus (HPV). It's spread through any type of sexual contact between a man and a woman. Most people who have been sexually active will have an HPV infection at some point in their lives. Read more about HPV.

There are also some rare kinds of cervical cancer caused by other things, such as melanoma.

Risk factors for cervical cancer

The most important risk factor is having HPV. Other factors include:

Ways to reduce your risk of getting cervical cancer include:

Symptoms of cervical cancer

The changes that lead to cervical cancer happen slowly. These early changes usually have no symptoms.

If cancer of the cervix does develop, the main symptom is unusual bleeding from your vagina, such as bleeding between periods, bleeding after sex or bleeding after menopause. Other symptoms are unusual vaginal discharge, or pain during sex or in your pelvic region.

These symptoms do not always mean you have cervical cancer, but if you have them, it's important to get them checked out by your doctor.

Diagnosing cervical cancer

Tests to diagnose cervical cancer include:

Treating cervical cancer

The type of treatment options for cervical cancer depends on the stage of the cancer. Options may include surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy or a combination of these treatments.

The Cancer Society provides a range of information about cervical cancer, including treatment options and side effects.

  HealthInfo recommends the following pages

On the next page: HPV vaccine (Gardasil)

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed September 2021.


Page reference: 301179

Review key: HICES-20461