What is Cervical Cancer?

January is cervical cancer awareness month. This article is part one in a series that discusses cervical cancer and its prevention symptoms and treatment.

According to National Cancer Institue, there were approximately 12,000 women diagnosed with cervical cancer last year. Cervical cancer develops in the cervix, the narrow outer end of the uterus that extends into the vagina. When diagnosed early, cervical cancer is generally curable and patients have an excellent chance of recovery. Penn Medicine physicians and scientists are working together to develop new ways to diagnose and treat cervical cancer.

There are two types of Cervical Cancer :

* Squamous cell carcinoma. The most common type of cervical cancer consisting of flat, thin cells called squamous cells that cover the surface of the cervix.
* Adenocarcinoma. Develops in the mucus-producing glands of the endocervix or opening to the uterus.

About half of the women diagnosed with cervical cancer are between the ages of 35 and 55 (check stats). The majority of cases are caused by exposure to the human papillomavirus (HPV), a common sexually transmitted disease. HPV affects up to 80 percent of females and males in their lifetime. Many cases of HPV clear on their own, but certain types of HPV can cause cervical, vulvar and vaginal cancer in females.