What is Cervical Cancer?

The cervix is a part of the female reproductive system. It is the lower part of the womb or uterus (where the fetus grows). The cervix connects the body of the uterus to the vagina. The part of the cervix nearest the body of the uterus is call endocervix, while the part nearest the vagina is the exocervix. These two meet at the transformation zone. The transformation zone is where most cervical cancers start.

Types of Cervical Cancers

There are two main types of cervical cancers. They are classified according to how they look under a microscope:

squamous cell carcinoma – 80 to 90 percent of cervical cancers are of this type. These cancers come from the squamous cells that cover the surface of the exocervix, and would look like squamous cells under the microscope. They usually start where the exocervicx joinas the endocervix.

Adenocarcinoma – make up the remaining 10 to 20 percent of cervical cancers. These cancers come from gland cells of the endocervix which produce mucus. Adenocarcinoma is becoming more common in women born in the last 20 to 30years.

There is another type of cervical cancer, but it is less common. It features both squamous cell carcinomas and adenocarcinomas. These cancers are called adenosquamous carcinomas or mixed carcinomas.

Pre-Cancerous Cells or Pre-cancers

Cervical cancers start from pre-cancerous cell or pre-cancers. However, only some of the women with pre-cancers of the cervix develop cervical cancer. There is no definite time period for pre-cancers to develop to cervical cancer.

For some women, it takes several years. For some it takes about less than one year. In some women, pre-cancers turn into true cancer. But, when pre-cancers are treated, it prevents almost all true cancers.

Other types of rare types of cervical cancers

Nearly all cervical cancers are either squamous cell carcinomas or adenocarcinomas. But there are other types of cancers that can start in the cervix. And these types are very rare:

  • melanoma
  • sarcoma
  • lymphoma