Topic of the Month: Cervical Cancer
What is cervical cancer?
Most cervical cancers begin in the cells lining the cervix. These cells do not suddenly change into cancer. Instead, the normal cells of the cervix first gradually develop pre-cancerous changes that turn into cancer. Doctors use several terms to describe these pre-cancerous changes, including cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN), squamous intraepithelial lesion (SIL), and dysplasia. These changes can be detected by the Pap test and treated to prevent the development of cancer.
What are risk factors for cervical cancer?
Although risk factors often influence the development of cancer, most do not directly cause cancer. Some people with several risk factors never develop cancer, while others with no known risk factors do. However, knowing your risk factors and talking about them with your doctor may help you make more informed lifestyle and health care choices. The following factors may raise a woman's risk of developing cervical cancer:
How Can I Prevent Cervical Cancer?
Cervical cancer is one of the most preventable types of cancer. Here is why:
- You can mostly control the risk factors.
- The Pap test is a highly effective screening test.
- There is an approved vaccine to prevent some of the most common types of the human papillomavirus (HPV). That's the virus that causes many types of cervical cancer.
- A test for HPV provides an added tool to screen for early signs of infection when treatment options are most effective.
What are signs and symptoms of cervical cancer?
Women with early cervical cancers and pre-cancers usually have no symptoms. Symptoms often do not begin until the cancer becomes invasive and grows into nearby tissue. When this happens, the most common symptoms are:
What are treatment options for cervical cancer?
Treatment options for women include...
- Radiation therapy
- A combination of these methods
The choice of treatment depends mainly on the size of the tumor and whether the cancer has spread. The treatment choice may also depend on whether you would like to become pregnant someday.
What should I ask my doctor about cervical cancer?It is important for you to have frank, open discussions with your cancer care team. They want to answer all of your questions, no matter how trivial you might think they are. Here are some questions to consider:
Is a clinical trial right for me?Cancer trials test a wide range of innovative cancer therapies and often provide patients with the most advanced and promising treatment options. If you would like to talk to a registered nurse about clinical trials at Northwestern, e-mail Peggy Gilbertsen or call her at 312-695-1102.
Women’s Cancer Network