Skip to main content

What You Should Know About Cervical Cancer

Dr. Wes Harden, OB/GYN - Phelps Health
Dr. Wes Harden, Phelps Health OB/GYN, discusses cervical cancer risk factors and symptoms.

Published on October 27, 2022

Read Time: 3 Minutes

Cervical cancer used to be one of the leading causes of cancer deaths in women in the US.

However, thanks in part to more women getting Pap tests, or Pap smears, along with other medical advances, the rate of women being diagnosed with cervical cancer has dropped significantly in recent years, according to Wesley Harden, MD, FACOG, an obstetrician/gynecologist (OB/GYN) with Phelps Health.

While cervical cancer has been called one of the most preventable cancers in women, the American Cancer Society estimates that 14,000 new cases of cervical cancer will be diagnosed in the US this year alone.

To get a better understanding of this disease, Dr. Harden discusses the types of cervical cancer and risk factors, in addition to preventive measures women can take to lower their chances of getting cervical cancer.

What is cervical cancer?

Cervical cancer is a cancer that forms in the cervix – at the entry to the uterus, or womb.

What are the different types of cervical cancer?

About 90% of cervical cancers start as pre-cancers, or cervical dysplasia, where the squamous cells of the vagina meet the glandular cells of the cervical canal. This type of cancer is known as squamous cell carcinoma of the cervix.

Another type of cervical cancer is adenocarcinoma of the cervix, which is formed in the glandular cells in the cervical canal.

The human papillomavirus (HPV) causes both squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma. HPV is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) common in people in their early 20s. While about nine out of 10 people’s immune systems will clear the HPV infection within 2 years, getting the HPV vaccine is important.

Other types of cervical cancer are extremely rare.

What are cervical cancer risk factors?

Women who have intercourse at a young age or who have multiple sexual partners may be at increased risk for cervical cancer. Women who smoke also have higher odds of cervical cancer because tobacco use decreases the chances of women clearing an HPV infection.

What are cervical cancer screening recommendations?

All women should follow the standard cervical cancer screening guidelines, unless they have been advised by their healthcare provider to be screened more frequently.

Women ages 21 to 65 should receive a Pap test every 3 years. A pelvic exam can be done with or without a Pap test.

Alternatively, women ages 30 to 65 can receive a Pap test every 3 years, HPV testing and Pap test every 5 years, or HPV testing alone every 5 years.

These tests can help detect cervical dysplasia, or pre-cancer, when the disease can be more easily treated. Cervical cancer survival rates for people can vary, with earlier stages of cancer having better outcomes.

What are cervical cancer symptoms?

Oftentimes, women who have early cervical cancer or pre-cancer have no symptoms. If the cancer grows, women may notice menstrual abnormalities, bleeding after intercourse or pelvic pain.

Can Phelps Health treat cervical cancer or pre-cancers?

OB/GYNs and women’s health providers with Phelps Health Women’s Health Center and Maternity can help patients who have abnormal Pap tests and cervical dysplasia, or pre-cancer.

Patients who need cervical cancer treatment can be referred to the Phelps Health Delbert Day Cancer Institute.

Is cervical cancer preventable?

Because HPV infections can lead to cervical cancer, children ages 11 to 12 should receive two doses of the HPV vaccine. Anyone who hasn’t received both doses of the vaccine by those ages can receive three doses until they turn 26 years old.

Women between the ages of 27 and 45 should talk to their healthcare provider about the benefits and risks of getting the HPV vaccine.

Reported side effects of the HPV vaccine include muscle aches, headaches, fever and pain at the injection site.

Get Screened for Cervical Cancer

Schedule your Pap or HPV test with a Phelps Health OB/GYN or women’s health provider. Call the Phelps Health Women’s Health Center and Maternity at (573) 426-2229.

Found in: Cancer Cervical Cancer Health OB/GYN Pap Smear Pap Test Services Women Women’s Health Center and Maternity