Cervical cancer begins in the cervix, the narrow organ at the bottom of the uterus that connects to the vagina. The cervix dilates during childbirth to allow for passage of a baby.
Infection of the cervix with human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common cause of cervical cancer. However, not all women with an HPV infection will develop cervical cancer.
The early stages of cervical cancer usually do not have any symptoms. This is why it is important to have screening Pap tests.
As a tumor grows in size, it can produce a variety of symptoms including: abnormal bleeding (including bleeding after sexual intercourse, in between periods, heavier/longer lasting menstrual bleeding, or bleeding after menopause), abnormal vaginal discharge (may be foul smelling), pelvic or back pain, pain on urination and blood in the stools/urine.
Routine Pap testing is the best way to detect abnormal changes to the cervix before they develop into cancer. Because of this, women who do not regularly have a Pap test are at increased risk of developing the disease
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