At one time, cervical cancer was one of the more common causes of cancer-related deaths among women. However, with the increased use of the Pap test, there has been a 70% decline in the death rate from cervical cancer. A majority of cases are found in women younger than age 50. And, in terms of ethnicity, Latina and African-American women are more likely to develop cervical cancer compared to Caucasian women.
Although the causes of cervical cancer are not known, environmental risk factors and genetics have shown an increased chance of developing the cancer.
Some other risk factors which may lead to the development of cervical cancer include:
- HPV – Human papilloma virus is common and typically clears up on its own. In some cases, it becomes chronic and may lead to cancer.
- Smoking – Women who smoke are twice as likely to develop cervical cancer.
- Weakened immune system – Women infected with HIV or those taking medications to suppress the immune system are at increased risk of development.
- Sexual history – Women with many sexual partners or those who have male partners with long sexual histories are at increased risk of HPV infection and cervical cancer.
- Giving birth to many children – Women who give birth to five or more children may be slightly more at risk than other women.
- Extensive use of birth control – Women who take birth control for five or more years are at increased risk.
- Diet – Women with diets low in fruits and vegetables are at greater risk of developing cervical cancer.
- Diethylstilbestrol (DES) – The daughters of women who took DES are at increased risk of developing squamous cell cancers and pre-cancers of the cervix.
Common signs and symptoms of cervical cancer are:
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding
- Bleeding that occurs between regular menstrual periods
- Bleeding after sexual intercourse or a pelvic exam
- Menstrual periods that last longer and are heavier than before
- Bleeding after going through menopause
- Increased vaginal discharge
- Pelvic pain
- Pain during sex
The treatment options for cervical cancer vary between surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. In most cases, the recommended treatment is guided by the stage of cervical cancer and whether it has spread to any other areas of the body.
Find out more about our gynecologic cancer treatment program and gynecologic cancer screening services.