Cervical Dysplasia | Miami Cancer Institute | Baptist Health South Florida
Skip Ribbon Commands Skip to main content http://bapth.lt/2kqabRg
Three generation family supporting cervical cancer patient at Miami Cancer Institute

 Cervical Dysplasia

Cervical cancer is cancer that starts in the cells of the cervix.

The cervix is the lower, narrow part of the uterus that opens into the vagina. Most cervical cancers begin in an area called the transformation zone, where the inner part of the cervix closest to the uterus meets the outer part of cervix closest to the vagina.

Cervical cancer grows slowly over many years but it can happen in less than a year. Before the cancer develops, abnormal cells — called dysplasia or precancers — appear in the cervix. These cells can be seen on a Pap screening test and often can be removed with an office procedure. Treating these abnormal cells prevents the cancer from developing.

According to the American Cancer Society, about 12,900 new cases of invasive cervical cancer will be diagnosed in 2015 and 4,100 women will die from the disease. Most cases are found in women younger than 50. Over the last 30 years, the cervical death rate has gone down by more than 50 percent. This is due to the increased use of the Pap screening test, which finds changes in the cervix before cancer develops or spreads.

The two main types of cervical cancer are:

  • Squamous cell carcinoma - the most common type of cervical cancer and accounts for up to nine out of every 10 diagnoses. These thin, flat cells most often develop in the transformation zone.
  • Adenocarcinoma - Most of the other cervical cancers are adenocarcinomas. These develop from the mucus-producing gland cells that line the inner part of the cervix closest to the uterus.

A small number of cervical cancers have features of both squamous cell carcinomas and adenocarcinomas. These are called adenosquamous carcinomas or mixed carcinomas.

What causes cervical cancer?

In recent years, researchers have identified several risk factors that increase the odds that a woman might develop cervical cancer. They include:

  • Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) Infection. The most important risk factor for cervical cancer is HPV infection. HPV is a group of more than 150 related viruses, some of which cause genital warts. HPV is the most common sexually transmitted virus in the United States and is responsible for almost all cases of cervical cancer. Vaccines that protect against infection with these types of HPV can greatly reduce the risk of cervical cancer.
  • HIV infection
  • DES (diethylstilbestrol) exposure
  • Smoking
  • Chlamydia infection
  • Long-term use of oral contraceptives
  • Having multiple full-term pregnancies. Research suggests that women who have had three or more full-term pregnancies have an increased risk of developing cervical cancer
  • Being younger than 17 at the time of first full-term pregnancy
  • Having multiple sexual partners
  • Lifestyle choices including diet and smoking
  • Family history of cervical cancer

What are the symptoms of cervical cancer?

In its early stages, cervical cancer may not cause symptoms. This is why doctors recommend regular cervical cancer screenings. The tests can help detect cervical cancer in its earliest stages, when it is most treatable.

When symptoms do occur, they may include:

  • Pelvic or lower belly pain
  • Unusual vaginal discharge
  • Pain or bleeding during intercourse
  • Bleeding between periods
  • Bleeding after menopause

If your doctor finds something suspicious during a screening test or you experience symptoms of cervical cancer, your doctor will probably order a number of diagnostic tests. These tests will help your medical team get a full understanding of your cancer.

The most common tests for cervical cancer are:

  • Pelvic exam
  • Pap and HPV tests, in which the doctor collects cells from the cervix and vagina so they can be analyzed under a microscope. This procedure is performed during the pelvic exam
  • Colposcopy, which allows the doctor to look closely at the cervix with a magnifying tool
  • Cervical biopsy, in which the doctor removes tissue to be analyzed by a pathologist
  • Endocervical curettage, in which the doctor collects cells or tissue from the cervical canal using a spoon-shaped instrument called a curette. This procedure is sometimes performed at the same time as the colposcopy.
  • Imaging tests – such as chest X-ray or CT, MRI and PET scans – may be used to create a picture of the inside of your body if your doctor thinks that your cancer has spread.

At Miami Cancer Institute, we understand that every person and every cancer is different. Your treatment plan will depend on many factors, including the extent or stage of your disease, your age and your overall health. Your care will involve numerous specialists, including, oncologists, surgeons and radiation experts, as well as nurses, dietitians, therapists and social workers.

Your doctor will describe your treatment choices and the expected results. You and your doctor can work together to develop a plan that meets your needs.

The treatments may include (alone or in combination):

  • Surgery – Many patients with cervical cancer are treated with surgery that removes the abnormal tissue. The procedure can be performed by cryosurgery, which kills abnormal cells by freezing them; laser surgery, which burns off the abnormal cells; or through a hysterectomy or radical hysterectomy.
  • Radiation therapy (external, brachytherapy and proton) – One of the most exciting advances in the fight against cervical cancer is proton therapy. When the Proton Therapy Center opens at Miami Cancer Institute, it will be the only center of its kind in the region and one of only 14 in the United States. Proton therapy is an advanced form of radiation treatment that spares healthy tissue and eliminates many of the side effects of conventional radiation treatment.
  • Chemotherapy – the use of drugs to kill or slow the growth of cancer cells. Usually the drugs are given into a vein or by mouth. Once the drugs enter the bloodstream, they spread throughout the body. Chemotherapy can also be given in combination with radiation therapy (chemoradiation) to improve the patient’s chance for survival; however, giving them together may increase the potential side effects of treatment.
  • Targeted therapies in which specific drugs target the abnormal tissue
  • Clinical trials​ – Researchers are working to develop new and more effective cervical cancer treatments. Your healthcare team will discuss whether or not a clinical trial is right for you.