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Cervical cancer is a slow-growing malignancy. In fact, once cells in the cervix begin to undergo abnormal changes, it can take several years for the cells to grow into invasive cervical cancer. Many women experience precancerous changes in the cervix in their 20s and 30s, though the average woman with cervical cancer is diagnosed in her 50s. Because of this, there are many opportunities for early detection and treatment before the cancer has progressed to later stages. Therefore, it is especially important for women to undergo routine Pap tests to detect abnormal changes as soon as possible. Additionally, women should understand what is normal for their bodies, and report any cervical cancer symptoms to a physician as soon as they develop. Some symptoms of cervical cancer include:

  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding
  • Abnormal vaginal discharge
  • Pain during sexual intercourse
  • Pain in the pelvis or lower back
  • Trouble urinating or having a bowel movement

Can cervical cancer be prevented?

Cervical cancer occurs when cells in the cervix grow and divide uncontrollably. Unlike many other cancers whose causes are largely still unknown, cervical cancer is most often caused by human papillomavirus (HPV). Women can get an HPV vaccine, which protects against the strains of HPV that are most likely to lead to cervical cancer. While this won’t completely eliminate your chances of developing cervical cancer, it does help lower your risk.

Importantly, a well-proven way to prevent cervical cancer is to have routine screening tests in this case the Pap test and/or HPV tests. These tests can help your physician detect abnormal changes in the cervix before cancer fully develops. When detected early, cervical cancer is highly treatable.

Medically reviewed by Jing-Yi Chern, MD, ScM, gynecologic oncologist

Moffitt Cancer Center offers comprehensive screening, diagnostic and treatment services for patients with cervical cancer. If you are showing symptoms of this condition, or if you have received a diagnosis and would like to explore your treatment options at Moffitt, request an appointment by calling 1-888-663-3488 or submitting a new patient registration form online. You do not need a referral.