What is cervical cancer?

Cervical cancer is cancer of the cervix, which is the opening from the vagina to the uterus. Cervical cancer is caused by high-risk HPV (the human papillomavirus). For more information on high-risk HPV, go to the section called HPV.

Is cervical cancer preventable?

Cervical cancer is preventable! You just have to know what to do.

  • An HPV vaccine is available for girls, boys, young women and young men 26 years of age and younger. 

The section called Prevention explains in detail what the vaccine is and why, even if you are vaccinated, you still need to be tested.

  • Two tests provide an early warning system. 

A Pap test looks for abnormal cells. If needed, these can be treated before they become cancerous.

An HPV test looks for high-risk HPV that can cause abnormal cells. This lets your healthcare provider monitor you more closely for cell changes.

Find out more in the Prevention section.

  • Safe, widely available treatments can remove abnormal cells. 

The Understanding Abnormal Cells section describes the procedures your healthcare provider uses to get rid of abnormal cells before they turn into cancer.

What are the symptoms of abnormal cell changes or cervical cancer?

Just like HPV, abnormal cell changes don’t cause symptoms. In fact, the early stages of cervical cancer often don’t cause symptoms either. The path to cervical cancer – HPV infection, abnormal cells and early cancer – is a silent one. Over a period of years your cervix may be developing a problem without you suspecting a thing. That’s why it’s so important to get tested regularly.

If there are any cervical cancer symptoms, they may include:

  • Pain during sex
  • Unusual vaginal discharge or bleeding – especially after sex
  • Lower back pain
  • Painful urination

If you have any of those symptoms, contact your healthcare provider.

Does a diagnosis of cervical cancer mean I’m going to die?

No! Check out our Cervivor Stories to read about all of these great women who have survived cervical cancer. There are many effective treatment options available. There’s also lots of support available, like us! We are here to help you regain control of your life.