What is cervical cancer?
Cancer of the cervix occurs when the cervical cells of a woman are damaged and replicate unchecked. Most of the time the damage is caused by human papillomavirus (HPV).
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Most of the time there are no symptoms for cervical cancer, which is why it's important to be screened with a Pap smear if you are at risk. When symptoms occur they include pain, discharge and abnormal bleeding.
The cervix is the point between the uterus and vagina that produces lubricant for the vagina and mucus that promotes the motility (ability to move) of sperm.
Human papillomavirus (HPV), the virus that causes genital warts, causes most cases of cervical cancer. Cervical cells undergo abnormal changes before they become cancerous. A Pap smear can detect these changes.
Surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy are used to treat cervical cancer.
In many cases, after treatment your cancer can be in 'remission', which means that the cancer is cleared from the body. No one can be permanently 'cured' of cervical cancer, as there is always a chance the cancer will return.
In many cases cervical cancer is caused by human papillomavirus (HPV), so getting the HPV vaccine, using condoms and limiting the number of sexual partners you have are the best ways to reduce your risk of getting cervical cancer.
A Pap smear involves the scraping off of cells from the cervix and smearing them onto a glass slide, which is then sent to a lab where someone who specialises in studying cells, called a cytologist, checks them for abnormalities.