A cervical tumor refers to an abnormal growth of cells in the cervix, which is the lower part of the uterus that connects to the vagina. Cervical tumors can be benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). Cervical cancer is the most concerning type of cervical tumor and is primarily caused by persistent infection with high-risk types of human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted infection.
There are two main types of cervical cancer:
- Squamous cell carcinoma: This is the most common type of cervical cancer, accounting for approximately 70-80% of cases. It arises from the squamous cells that line the outer surface of the cervix.
- Adenocarcinoma: This type of cervical cancer originates from the glandular cells that produce mucus in the endocervical canal. Adenocarcinoma accounts for approximately 20-30% of cervical cancer cases.
Cervical cancer usually develops slowly over time, with precancerous changes occurring in the cervical cells before they become cancerous. These precancerous changes are called cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN) and are classified into three grades (CIN 1, CIN 2, and CIN 3) based on the extent of abnormal cell growth.
Screening for cervical cancer, such as the Papanicolaou (Pap) test and the HPV test, can help detect precancerous changes or early-stage cervical cancer before symptoms appear. If detected early, cervical cancer is highly treatable, and the prognosis is generally favorable.
Common symptoms of cervical cancer, which usually appear in later stages of the disease, may include:
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding, such as bleeding between periods, after sex, or after menopause
- Unusual vaginal discharge
- Pelvic pain or pain during sex
Treatment options for cervical cancer depend on the stage of the disease and may include surgery (such as a hysterectomy or removal of lymph nodes), radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or a combination of these approaches.
Vaccination against HPV is an effective way to prevent cervical cancer, as it can protect against the high-risk types of HPV that are responsible for the majority of cervical cancer cases. Regular cervical cancer screening and practicing safe sex can also reduce the risk of developing cervical cancer.