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Cervical Cancer

Cervical cancer develops in the cervix, the low narrow part of the uterus that connects to the vagina.  Most cervical cancers are squamous cell carcinoma.  Adenocarcinoma is a less-common type of cervical cancer.

Cancer in the cervix grows relatively slowly and is easy to identify in its early stage through a Pap test ("Pap smear").  In fact, the Pap test can be used to identify pre-cancerous cell changes like dysplasia or high-grade or low-grade squamous intraepithelial lesions.  Cervical cancer or pre-cancer is very treatable when caught at this early stage.

Risk factors for developing cervical cancer include infrequent Pap tests, infection with the human papillomavirus (HPV), infection with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), smoking, age (late teens to mid-30s), having sexual intercourse before age 18, and having multiple sex partners.  Using birth control for many years also may raise one's risk.

Symptoms of cervical cancer don't become apparent until the disease has progressed.  Symptoms may include abnormal vaginal bleeding, such as bleeding between periods or after intercourse.  Other symptoms include vaginal bleeding after menopause, heavy periods that last longer than usual, pelvic pain including pain during intercourse, and increased vaginal discharge.

Early detection through Pap testing and pelvic exams plays a key role in helping to prevent pre-cancerous conditions from progressing into cervical cancer. 

How is it diagnosed?
How is it treated?
How does Advocate Christ Medical Center make a difference?
Frequently Asked Questions

How is it diagnosed?

Your doctor may order a colposcopy, which uses a special lighted scope that allows the physician to see inside the cervix and biopsy or remove a small amount of tissue for testing in the pathology lab.

There are several other ways to biopsy tissue from the cervix:

  • Loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP)-uses an electric wire loop to obtain a piece of tissue.
  • Endocervical curettage (ECC)-uses a narrow instrument ("curette") to scrape the lining of the endocervical canal. This type of biopsy is usually completed along with the colposcopic biopsy.
  • Cone biopsy (also called conization.)-a biopsy in which a larger cone-shaped piece of tissue is removed from the cervix by using the loop electrosurgical excision procedure or a cold knife cone biopsy procedure. The cone biopsy procedure may be used as a treatment for pre-cancerous lesions and early cancers.  Cold knife cone biopsy uses a laser or surgical scalpel to remove a piece of tissue. This procedure requires the use of general anesthesia.
  • HPV DNA test-a test that examines the DNA of cervical cells. The cells are collected as they are for a regular Pap test, but it is not a replacement for a Pap test. The HPV DNA test may be used as a screening test for women over 30 or for women with slightly abnormal Pap test results to determine if further testing or treatment is required.

How is it treated?

In its early stages, cervical cancer is quite treatable.  Treatment options may include surgery, radiation therapy or chemotherapy. 

Surgery may be done in different ways, such as:

  • Cryosurgery-uses very cold liquid nitrogen to freeze and destroy cancer cells. There is no incision with cryosurgery.
  • Laser surgery-uses powerful, targeted light beams to destroy cancer cells. There is no incision with laser surgery.

Surgery may not be advised for late-stage cervical cancer.  The physician team will recommend a treatment plan based on the cancer stage, the woman's overall health, and other factors. Radiation therapy and chemotherapy also may be used to treat cervical cancer.

How does Advocate Christ Medical Center make a difference?

Advocate Christ Medical Center offers a full range ofdiagnostic testing and treatment options to provide life-long follow-up and personalized care for women with gynecologic cancers and pre-cancerous conditions. 

Gynecologists at Christ Medical Center are skilled at using laparoscopic and other minimally invasive techniques to address pre-cancerous conditions.  Early identification and treatment of pre-cancers helps to prevent cellular changes from turning into cancer.

Our reconstructive urologists utilize a range of surgical and non-surgical techniques, such as medications for bladder control, injection of Botox and other agents, and surgical creation of an artificial urinary sphincter.

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