Cervical cancer refers to the growth of abnormal cells in the lining of the cervix that then develop into cancerous tumours. Cervical cancer develops on the basis of an infection with one or more strains of HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) and it can advance through pre-cancerous stages over many years.
Cervical cancer can be curable when detected early. In Australia, the impact of cervical cancer has markedly decreased since the introduction of widespread, regular screening and the HPV vaccine.
Approximately 900 Australian women per year are diagnosed with cervical cancer and it mainly occurs in women over the age of 35 years. Changes to cervical cells do not usually cause any symptoms which is why regular screening tests are important, even if women have received the HPV vaccine.
Treatment for cervical cancer can depend on the stage of the disease, age, if it has spread and if fertility options need to be retained. Very early cervical cancer (microinvasive) can be treated by a cone biopsy or a ‘simple’ hysterectomy. Patients with cervical cancer limited to the uterine cervix may require a radical hysterectomy, to ensure safety margins are taken. Women with advanced disease (Stage 2+) may require a combination of chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
Statistical Source – Cancer Australia, the lead cancer control agency to the Government of Australia.