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Cervical Cancer Screening in Women Ages 30 and Older

Diagram of a woman’s reproductive system.

The cervix is the opening of your uterus (womb). It is part of a woman’s reproductive system.

Cervical Cancer

What Is the Cervix?

The cervixThe part of the womb (or uterus) that opens to the vagina. is the opening of your uterusThe uterus, or womb, holds a growing baby and helps push the baby out during labor. (womb). It is part of a woman’s reproductive system.

What Is Cervical Cancer?

CancerA disease that starts when cells in the body turn abnormal and begin to grow out of control. Abnormal (damaged) cells begin in one part of the body and can spread to other body parts. When they spread, the damaged cells replace normal cells. There are many types of cancer. Cancers are named based on where the abnormal cells first started growing. Cervical cancer is when the abnormal cells begin in the cervix. can grow on your cervix—the same way it can grow on other body parts. Most times, cervical cancer grows slowly. It can take 10 to 15 years (or more) for abnormal cellsThe basic unit that makes up all living things. to turn into cancer.

Cervical cancer often does not cause symptoms until it is advanced. Women with advanced cervical cancer may have abnormal bleeding, discharge, or pain.

What Causes Cervical Cancer?

HPV can cause changes in cervical cells over time: from normal cells to precancer, or abnormal, cells to cancer cells.

Abnormal cells are sometimes called “precancer” because they are not normal, but they are not yet cancer.

A virus,Something that lives in the body and can cause infections. Viruses are so small that they cannot even be seen with a regular microscope. called human papillomavirusA very common virus that infects the skin cells. There are many types of HPV. About 40 types, called genital HPV, affect the genital areas of men and women. Some of these types can cause cervical cancer in women. Other types can cause genital warts in men and women. (pap-ah-LOmah-VYE-rus)—also just called HPVA very common virus that infects the skin cells. There are many types of HPV. About 40 types, called genital HPV, affect the genital areas of men and women. Some of these types can cause cervical cancer in women. Other types can cause genital warts in men and women.—can cause normal cells on your cervix to turn abnormal. Over many years, abnormal cells can turn into cancer if they are not found and treated by your doctor. You cannot see or feel HPV or these cell changes on your cervix.

ImportantCervical cancer is not hereditary like other cancers.

Every year in the United States, about 12,000 women get cervical cancer and almost 4,000 women die from it. But it is the most preventable female cancer with regular screening tests and early treatment.

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