Cervical cancer is the result of unusual cell growth over the cervix--the narrow end of the uterus that opens into the upper part of the vagina. In its early stages, the cell growth normally affects the top layer of cells of the cervix and is almost 100 percent curable. As it progresses to deeper cell layers, the chances of stopping it plummet.
Almost 13,500 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer annually and nearly 4,500 of these women will die because the disease was diagnosed too late.
Importance of Early Detection
Cervical cancer is nearly completely curable if diagnosed in its early stages and treated promptly. An abnormal Pap test is usually the best and first way to detect something is wrong. The death rate for cervical cancer has decreased by 75 percent since Pap tests began.
An abnormal Pap test result could be considered the first symptom of cervical cancer. As it progresses, women may notice irregular bleeding, pelvic pain, bleeding during intercourse or unusual vaginal discharge.
Women at Risk
Women who do not see a gynecologist regularly are at risk, along with those who smoke or have sexually transmitted diseases. African American women are twice as likely to develop cervical cancer.
Cervical cancer may be treated with Loop electrosurgical excision procedure (or LEEP) and conization, hysterectomy, cryosurgery or electrocautery.