, NJ (PressExposure) May 13, 2008 -- When cells in an area of body grow abnormally, cancer can develop. Cervical cancer is abnormal cell growth in the cervix. The cervix is the part of the uterus that connects the upper part of the uterus (the womb). Cervical cancer is a serious condition that can be life threatening. It begins when women becomes infected with certain types of Human Papillomavirus (HPV). If the immune system does not clear the infection, normal cells can begin to grow abnormally and turn into precancerous lesions. If not discovered early and treated, this abnormal cell growth can become cancer. Most often this can take a number of years, although in rare cases it can happen within a year.
Women who have been infected with certain types of HPV and have not been to clear the virus can get cervical cancer and pre-cancer. About half of all females diagnosed with cervical cancer are between 35 and 55 years old. Many of these women were most likely exposed to cancer causing HPV type during their teens and 20's. Most of the women who get cervical cancer may have never had a Pap test.
HPV is a common virus that affects both females and males. There are more than 100 types of the virus. Most types of HPV do not cause any symptoms, are harmless and are cleared. About 30 types of HPV are known as genital HPV since they affect the genital area. Some types can cause cervical cancer or abnormal cells in the lining of the cervix that could turn into cancer. Other types of HPV can cause genital warts and benign (noncancerous) changes in the cervix. HPV has also been linked to other rare disease including vaginal and vulvar cancer, as well as RRP (recurrent respiratory papillomatosis), a disease of the throat that makes breathing difficult. Because people who have HPV may not show any sign or symptoms, they can transmit the virus without even knowing it. Anyone who has sexual activity involving genital contact could get genital HPV, even if there is no sexual intercourse.
Because HPV usually has no sign or symptoms, most people infected with HPV don't know they have it. Most HPV infections are first discovered as a result of abnormal Pap test. A Pap test is part of a gynecological exam and helps detect abnormal cells in the lining of the cervix before they have the chance to become pre-cancer or cervical cancer. Many cervical pre-cancers (changes that could lead to cancer) are related to HPV and can be treated successfully if detected early. That's why early detection is so important.