Cervical cancer develops in the cells of the cervix. It is believed that most cervical cancer is caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted infection that causes warts. But just because you have HPV doesn’t mean you’ll develop cervical cancer. The majority of HPV infections go away on their own without treatment.
Cervical Cancer Screening
- Regular Pap smears are recommended to test for abnormal cervical cells.
- An HPV DNA test can determine if you have HPV. Cervical cells are collected much like a Pap smear, but it’s important to note that an HPV DNA test is not a substitute for regular Pap smears.
Cervical Cancer Symptoms
There are usually no signs or symptoms in the early stages of cervical cancer. As the cancer progresses, you may notice:
- Vaginal bleeding after intercourse, between periods, or after menopause
- Watery, bloody vaginal discharge that may be heavy and have a foul odor
- Pelvic pain or pain during intercourse
Cervical Cancer Treatment
Your treatment will depend on the characteristics of the cancer, its stage, your general health, and your preferences.
Your options include:
- Operative and staging endoscopy
- Hormonal therapy
- Experimental agents
- Radiation therapy
- Radical and reconstructive pelvic and abdominal surgery
The Gardasil vaccine protects against the HPV strains that cause most genital warts and cervical cancer. The Cervarix vaccine protects against cervical cancer but not genital warts.
We abide by the National Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, which recommends girls and boys receive the HPV vaccination between ages 11 and 12. Women up to age 26 and men up to age 21 may also receive the vaccine.
Supporting You Every Step of the Way
At UT Southwestern, care does not stop with treatment of the malignancy. Our team is just as concerned about your nutrition, pain control, and psychological and social adjustments, as well as the impact of cancer on your family.
If you have questions, be sure to talk with your physician or another member of your clinical care team.