Introduction to Cervical Cancer

Executive Summary

Cervical cancer initiates from the cervix, the lower and narrow part of the uterus connecting the vagina. The primary cause of cervical cancer is human papillomavirus (HPV) infection that can be prevented by vaccination. The abnormal changes are the slow changes leading to cancer. Some atypical cells go away without treatment, while some become cancerous. It is known as cervical dysplasia, which is the abnormal growth of cells. Hysterectomy (removal of the cervix and uterus) is sometimes required to prevent cervical cancers.

The condition when precancerous cells transform into cancerous cells and spread deeper into the cervix or other organs and tissues results in causing cervical cancer. Squamous cell carcinoma and Adenocarcinoma are the types of cervical that are very rare. The glandular and squamous cells meet at the squamocolumnar junction, the opening of the cervix, which is the location where most cervical cancers start.

What is Cervical cancer?

Cervical cancer occurs due to the uncontrollable growth of cells in the cervix. This abnormal growth of cells can seize the space of nearby tissues and spread across the entire body. Eventually, this growth of cells leads to the formation of cancer tumors. At the initial stage of cervical cancers, cells multiply at a slow rate, although they can catch speed and spread quickly. Commonly found Cervical Cancers is known as squamous cell carcinoma. The origin of this type of Cervical Cancers is due to the abnormal growth of squamous cells that lie on the surface of the cervix. This type of Cervical Cancers contributes up to 80% of all kinds of cervical cancers. The development in oncology has substantially increased the survival rate for most Cervical Cancer patients. With research, doctors are studying the various possible causes of Cervical Cancers and approaching early medication and treatment.

Most cases of cervical cancer are caused by infection with human papillomavirus (HPV), which is preventable with a vaccine ​1​. On exposure to HPV, the body’s immune system typically prevents the virus from harming. In a small proportion of people, however, the virus survives for years, contributing to the process that causes some cervical cells to become cancer cells.

A tumor can be cancerous or benign. A cancerous tumour is malignant, meaning it can metastasize to other parts of the body. A benign tumour remains confined to its original location. 

At first, the changes in cells are abnormal, non-cancerous, and are called ‘atypical cells’. Researchers think some of these abnormal changes are the first step in slow changes leading to cancer. Some atypical cells go away without treatment, but others may become cancerous. This phase of the precancerous disease is known as cervical dysplasia, which is an abnormal growth of cells. The dysplasia tissue needs to be removed to stop cancer from developing. The dysplasia tissue can be mostly destroyed or removed without harming healthy tissue, but in a few cases, a hysterectomy can be needed to prevent cervical cancer. The removal of the cervix and uterus is called hysterectomy.

Treating a lesion which is a precancerous area, depends on the below-mentioned factors:

  • General health
  • Size of the lesion and the type of changes that have taken place in the cells
  • Preferences of the patient and the doctor
  • Age
  • The wish to have children in the future

When the precancerous cells transform into cancerous cells and spread deeper into the cervix or other organs and tissues, the disease is known as cervical cancer or invasive cervical cancer ​2​.

Cervical cancer can grow

  • From the surface of the cervix seen in the vagina, known as the ectocervix
  • The canal that goes from the vagina to the uterus is called the endocervix. There are two primary types of cervical cancer named for the type of cell where the cancer started. 

Other types of cervical are rare.

  • Squamous cell carcinoma makes up about 80% to 90% of all cervical cancers. This cancer starts in the cells on the outer surface covering the cervix.
  • Adenocarcinoma makes up about 10% to 20% of all cervical cancers. This cancer starts in the epithelial cells that line the lower birth canal in the internal portion of the cervix.

The glandular and squamous cells meet at the squamocolumnar junction, the opening of the cervix, which is the location where most cervical cancers start ​3​.

Reference

  1. Cohen PA, Jhingran A, Oaknin A, Denny L. Cervical cancer. The Lancet. Published online January 2019:169-182. doi:10.1016/s0140-6736(18)32470-x
  2. Fowler J, Maani E, Jack B. statpearls. Published online July 7, 2021. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK431093/
  3. Walboomers JMM, Jacobs MV, Manos MM, et al. Human papillomavirus is a necessary cause of invasive cervical cancer worldwide. J Pathol. Published online September 1999:12-19. doi:10.1002/(sici)1096-9896(199909)189:1<12::aid-path431>3.0.co;2-f