Worldwide, cervical cancer is the third most common type of cancer in women, yet it is much less common in the United States because of routine Pap smear screening. Cervical cancer usually develops slowly, and starts as a precancerous condition called dysplasia. This condition can be detected by a Pap smear and is 100 percent treatable. Almost all cervical cancers are caused by HPV (human papilloma virus), a common virus that is spread through sexual intercourse.
Cervical Cancer Symptoms
Early cervical cancer usually has no symptoms. Symptoms may include the following, however, these symptoms can also be attributed to other conditions:
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding between periods, after intercourse, or after menopause
- Vaginal discharge that does not stop, and may be pale, watery, pink, brown or bloody
- Periods that become heavier and last longer than usual
Cervical Cancer Diagnosis
Pap smears screen for cancer and precancerous changes. If abnormal changes are found, the cervix is usually examined under magnification in a procedure known as colposcopy. Pieces of tissue are surgically removed (biopsied) during this procedure. A procedure called cone biopsy may also be done.
Cervical Cancer Treatment
- If cervical cancer is detected early, it can be treated surgically through specialized procedures including loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP) which removes abnormal tissue with electricity; cryotherapy, which freezes abnormal cells; or laser therapy, which uses light to burn abnormal tissue.
- Hysterectomy (surgical removal of the cervix and uterus) is recommended for more advanced cervical cancer. At Avera McKennan, virtually all hysterectomies to treat cervical cancer are performed robotically.
- Clinical trials offer cutting-edge therapies in addition to standard care treatment.