(Cancer of the Cervix)
DefinitionCervical cancer is a disease in which cancer cells grow in the cervix. The cervix is the lower, narrow part of the uterus. It connects the uterus with the vagina.
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CausesCancer occurs when cells in the body divide without control or order. Normally, cells divide in a regulated manner. If cells keep dividing uncontrollably when new cells are not needed, a mass of tissue forms, called a growth or tumor. The term cancer refers to malignant growths. These growths can invade nearby tissues. Cancer that has invaded nearby tissues can then spread to other parts of the body. Research suggests that some sexually transmitted viruses, like human papillomavirus (HPV), can cause cervical cells to begin the changes that can lead to cancer. It is not clear exactly what causes changes in the cells, but is probably a combination of genetics and environment.
Risk FactorsCervical cancer is more common in women over 25 years old. Other factors that may increase your chance of cervical cancer include:
- HPV infection—the main risk factor for cervical cancer
- History of cervical dysplasia , which is a precancerous condition
- Daughter of a mother who took the drug diethylstilbestrol (DES) during pregnancy
- HIV infection
- Unprotected intercourse
- Multiple sexual partners
- Sexual activity prior to age 18
- First pregnancy prior to age 20
- Breast cancer chemotherapy
- Long-term use of hormonal contraceptives
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