Cervical cancer is characterized by the abnormal and uncontrollable growth of cervical tissue cells. The cervix is the lower part of the uterus that connects the uterus to the vaginal canal. Cervical cancer is almost exclusively caused by Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), a sexually transmitted disease that is estimated to affect approximately 50% of the population at some point in their lives. HPV infections cause the benign growths, papillae, which can later lead to the development of cervical cancer.
There are two major types of cervical cancer:
Squamous cell carcinoma, which occurs in the epithelial cells of the cervix and accounts for approximately 66% of all cervical cancers.
Adenocarcinoma, which develops from mucus secreting cells within the cervix and accounts for approximately 28% of all cervical cancers.
Cervical cancer most often occurs in women ages 30-50, though it may develop at any age. Women who were sexually active from a young age or who have had a history of multiple sexual partners are at a higher risk of developing cervical cancer, most likely because of the increased risk of HPV contraction. Advancements in detection and prevention technologies, including the pap smear and HPV vaccines, have significantly increased the life expectancies for cervical cancer patients as well as overall incidence rates in the past few decades. Cervical cancer is relatively rare, as only 0.7% of women will develop it in a lifetime.