Q: What is cervical cancer?
Dr. Donnica: Cervical cancer is caused by abnormal cellular changes
in the cervix (the "mouth" of the womb). It is the only gynecologic cancer
that can be prevented by regular screening with Pap smears. Despite this fact,
nearly 4,400 women will die from cervical cancer in the United States during
2001. Of these, more than half will not have had a Pap smear in at least 5
Few cancers have a known cause, but cervical cancer is an exception. Most
cervical cancers are now believed to be caused by one of 13 different strains
of human papilloma virus (HPV), a sexually transmitted virus that also causes
cervical or anal warts.
The biggest risk factor for cervical cancer is failure to
receive regular Pap smears. Other risk factors include having multiple sexual
partners, HIV or HPV infections, smoking, and early age of first intercourse.
Symptoms include bleeding after intercourse, excessive vaginal discharge (or
one that is repeatedly unresponsive to treatment), and abnormal bleeding between
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Created: 3/9/2001  - Donnica Moore, M.D.