Women's Health . Prevention . Cervical Cancer

About Cervical Cancer

Cervical cancer is a sexually transmitted disease4 and it begins in the Uterine cervix (lower part of the womb or uterus that opens up into the vagina).  It can be non invasive (it is localized and has not spread) or it can spread to the deeper layers of cervix or to other organs.

What causes it and what are the risk factors?


The married women of rural India are most at risk for cervical cancers. 3

Almost all cases of cervical cancer are caused by the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), which is sexually transmitted.  It affects women between the ages of 20 and 80, but peaks between 40 and 60 years of age. 4

Risk factors includes increased sexual partners, early age of first intercourse (under age 20), male partner with multiple partners, smoking (1.5-3 fold increased risk), immunosuppression, history of sexually transmitted diseases (STD), lower socioeconomic class, uncircumcised male partner.   50% of cancer patients have not had a pap smear and 10% have not had a pap smear in the last 5 years. 4

Being a woman and that with a cervix puts you at risk for cervical cancer.  Every year, about 10,520 women in the United States get cervical cancerand India contributes 100,000, i.e. 1/5 of the world burden".In other countries, cervical cancer affects approximately 500,000 women each year. 1

How is it screened?

A pap smear (pap) is a simple gynecologic procedure done in your family physician or gynecologist's office.  It checks for changes in your cervical cells.   It can detect infection, inflammation, abnormal cells, pre cancerous or cancer cells.

Pap smear was introduced over 50 years ago and the Thin Prep in the year 2000.  The pap has reduced mortality (death) by 70% since the 1940's, however the mortality rate for the US remains at about 5,000 per years since the mid 1980's.

American Academy of Family Physicians recommends that a woman who has a cervix or is sexually active should have a pap smear at least every 3 years.5    American Cancer Society recommends pap annually starting at age 18 or when sexually active; after 2 to 3 normal (negative) tests, continue at discretion of physician.  Regular testing after age 65 may be discontinued if results have been consistently normal.  Individual risks must be evaluated by your primary care physician.


1.  Cervical Cancer Campaign
2.  Holland Community Hospital
3.  INCR
4.  Family Practice Notebook
5.  American Academy of Family Physicians



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This service is designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on this information as a substitute for personal medical attention, diagnosis or hands-on treatment. If you are concerned about your health or that of a child's, please consult your family's health care provider immediately.