Cervical cancer can develop in two different types of cells that line the cervix, which is the lower part of a woman’s uterus. The endocervix – the portion of the cervix closest to the main body of the uterus – is lined with glandular cells. The exocervix – the portion of the cervix closest to the vagina – is lined with squamous cells. What is known as the “transformation zone” is the spot where these two types of cells meet. Most cervical cancer initially develops in the cells of the transformation zone.
Squamous cell carcinoma
The majority of cervical cancers (around 70%) are squamous cell carcinomas. This type of cervical cancer develops within the squamous cells of the exocervix, typically in the transformation zone.
Most of the remaining 30% of cervical cancers are adenocarcinomas. These cervical cancers develop in the glandular cells of the endocervix.
Other cervical cancer types
Sometimes, cervical cancer cells can feature characteristics of both squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma. Such cancers would be designated as “adenosquamous carcinomas” or “mixed carcinomas.”
It is possible for other types of cancer, such as melanoma, lymphoma or sarcoma, to develop in the cervix, but this is very rare.
What are “pre-cancers”?
The onset of cervical cancer is not usually sudden; rather, the healthy cervix cells gradually begin to show precancerous changes that could eventually become cancer. It is called cervical intraepithelial neoplasia. While precancerous cells sometimes go away on their own without any treatment, there are other times that they become true cancers.
Precancerous changes are detectable with a standard cervical cancer screening test, and treating any discovered pre-cancers can effectively prevent almost all types of cervical cancer.
Cervical cancer treatment at Moffitt Cancer Center
All types of cervical cancer are treated at Moffitt’s world-class gynecological clinic. Our multispecialty team develops individualized treatment plans for our patients, taking into account their unique cancers, as well as their specific needs and preferences. Plus, as a National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, Moffitt can grant patients access to groundbreaking treatment options through our robust clinical trials program.
To learn more about the types of cervical cancer, or to consult with a Moffitt oncologist specializing in cervical cancer diagnosis and treatment, call 1-888-663-3488 or complete our new patient registration form online. No referrals are required.