Awareness Color: Teal/White
Awareness Month/Day(s): January
Worldwide, cervical cancer is the third most common type of cancer in women. It is much less common in the United States because of the routine use of Pap smears.
Cervical cancers start in the cells on the surface of the cervix. There are two types of cells on the cervix's surface: squamous and columnar. Most cervical cancers are from squamous cells.
Cervical cancer usually develops very slowly. It starts as a precancerous condition called dysplasia. This precancerous condition can be detected by a Pap smear and is 100% treatable. It can take years for precancerous changes to turn into cervical cancer. Most women who are diagnosed with cervical cancer today have not had regular Pap smears or they have not followed up on abnormal Pap smear results.
Almost all cervical cancers are caused by HPV (human papilloma virus). HPV is a common virus that is spread through sexual intercourse. There are many different types of HPV. Some strains lead to cervical cancer. (Other strains may cause genital warts, while others do not cause any problems at all.)
A woman's sexual habits and patterns can increase her risk for cervical cancer. Risky sexual practices include having sex at an early age, having multiple sexual partners, and having multiple partners or partners who participate in high-risk sexual activities.
*Sources: From PubMed Health, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001895/