Review: Introduction to Cervical Cancer

Here is what we have learned from Introduction to Cervical Cancer:

  • Cervical cancer occurs when normal cells in the cervix change into cancer cells.
  • Each year, about 15,000 women in the United States learn that they have cancer of the cervix.
  • Abnormal changes in cells on the cervix are the first step in a series of slow changes that can lead to cancer years later.
  • Squamous intraepithelial lesion (SIL) is a general term for the abnormal growth of squamous cells on the surface of the cervix.
  • SIL can be divided into two categories:
    • Low-grade SIL: early changes in the size, shape, and number of cells that form the surface of the cervix.
    • High-grade SIL: there are a large number of precancerous cells;they look very different from normal cells.
  • Risk factors for cervical cancer, among others, include:
    • Relationship to sexual intercourse
    • Venereal diseases
    • Race—incidence higher in blacks and Hispanics
    • Low socioeconomic status
    • Poor genital hygiene
    • Cigarette smoking
    • Peak incidence over 40 years
  • Signs and symptoms include:
    • Post-coital or unexplained vaginal spotting or bleeding
    • Persistent vaginal discharge
    • Pelvic pain
  • Adenocarcinomas of the cervix have a worse prognosis than squamous cell cancers. Like all cancers, cancer of the cervix is much more likely to be cured if it is detected early and treated immediately.


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