Cervical Cancer 101

Female Reproductive System

Female Reproductive System

Review of Basic Cervical Cancer Facts

Cancer is a disease in which cells in the body grow out of control. Cancer is always named for the part of the body where it starts, even if it spreads to other body parts later. When cancer starts in the cervix, it is called cervical cancer. The cervix is the lower, narrow end of the uterus. Also known as the womb, the uterus is where a baby grows when a woman is pregnant. The cervix connects the upper part of the uterus to the vagina (birth canal).

Cervical cancer is highly preventable in most Western countries because screening tests and a vaccine to prevent HPV infections are available. When cervical cancer is found early, it is highly treatable and associated with long survival and good quality of life.

Learn more by reading Cervical Cancer Basic Information, downloading the Inside Knowledge campaign’s cervical cancer fact sheet, (PDF-670KB) or listening to the cervical cancer podcast.

Who Gets Cervical Cancer?

All women are at risk for cervical cancer. It occurs most often in women aged 30 years and older. In 2005,* 11,999 women in the United States were told they had cervical cancer, and 3,924 died from the disease. For more information, read HPV-Associated Cervical Cancer Statistics.

It is important to get tested for cervical cancer because 6 of 10 cervical cancers occur in women who have never received a Pap test or have not been tested in the past five years.

The human papillomavirus (HPV), a common virus that can be passed from one person to another during sex, is the main cause of cervical cancer and also causes many vaginal and vulvar cancers. At least half of sexually active people will have HPV at some point in their lives. Keep in mind, many people will have an HPV infection at some time in their lives, but few women will get cervical cancer.

U.S. Cancer Statistics Working Group. United States Cancer Statistics: 1999–2005 Incidence and Mortality Web-based Report. Atlanta (GA): Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and National Cancer Institute; 2009. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/uscs.
*The most recent year for which statistics are currently available.

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Page last reviewed: January 7, 2009
Page last updated: January 7, 2009
Content source: Division of Cancer Prevention and Control, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion

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Author: H. Sandra Chevalier-Batik

I started the Inconvenient Woman Blog in 2007, and am the product of a long line of inconvenient women. The matriarchal line is French-Canadian, Roman Catholic, with a very feisty Irish great-grandmother thrown in for sheer bloody mindedness. I am a research analyst and author who has made her living studying technical data, and developing articles, training materials, books and web content. Tracking through statistical data, and oblique cross-references to find the relevant connections that identifies a problem, or explains a path of action, is my passion. I love clearly delineating the magic questions of knowledge: Who, What, Why, When, Where and for How Much, Paid to Whom. My life lessons: listen carefully, question with boldness, and personally verify the answers. I look at America through the appreciative eyes of an immigrant, and an amateur historian; the popular and political culture is a ceaseless fascination. I have no impressive initials after my name. I’m merely an observer and a chronicler, an inconvenient woman who asks questions, and sometimes encourages others to look at things differently.