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The Cervix The Cervix

The cervix is the lower, narrow part of the uterus (the muscular, pear-shaped organ at the top of the vagina that is often called the womb) that connects the uterus with the vagina. It is the lining of the womb that is shed approximately once a month causing bleeding during a woman's period. The cervix forms part of the female reproductive system, and can be seen during an internal (vaginal) examination.

There are lymph nodes located close to the cervix. These nodes are small glands that are about the size of a bean. They are part of the lymphatic system that forms a network of glands throughout the body. The nodes are linked by a colorless fluid called the lymph, and form a system that serves to defend the body against disease.

What is Cervical Cancer?

Cervical cancer is among the most common cancer in women. Cervical cancer occurs when the cells in the cervix begin to grow and replicate in an abnormal and uncontrolled way. When this happens, the body cannot organize these cells for normal function and the cells form a mass that is called a tumor. Malignant tumors in the cervix can spread to other parts of the body, crowding and destroying normal cells.

Cervical cancer often grows very slowly over a period of years. Before the cancer actually develops, there are early changes that occur in the cells of the cervix. While these abnormal cells (called cervical intra-epithelial neoplasia or CIN) are not in and of themselves cancerous, and many women with these cells do not develop cancer, these cells may lead to cancer. These cells are sometimes referred to as precancerous, meaning that they have the potential to develop into cancer if not treated.

CIN usually results from a viral infection by the human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is a common virus that is generally sexually transmitted. While there are dozens of HPV type viruses, only a few have been linked to the development of cervical cancer. Even when women have the virus, their immune system generally eliminates it. For women whose immune system does not eliminate the virus, HPV may in time develop into cervical cancer.

All women are potentially at risk of developing cervical cancer at some point in their lifetime. The most common risk factors for cervical cancer include an early age of first intercourse, having multiple sexual partners, and having experienced a weakened immune system. Cervical cancer is most often diagnosed in women in their late 30s. It can, however, be diagnosed in younger as well as older women.

The most common symptoms of cervical cancer include abnormal bleeding, such as between periods or after intercourse. Sometines, there is also a vaginal discharge, and discomfort during intercourse. Women who have had their menopause may experience new bleeding. While these symptoms can be caused by conditions other than cervical cancer, they should raise your doctor's suspicion that you may have cervical cancer.

Law Office of Joseph A. Hernandez, P.C.
675 VFW Parkway
Suite 312
Chestnut Hill, MA 02467
Phone: (781) 461-9400
Toll free: (866) 461-9400
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