Type of cancer that occurs in the cells of the cervix

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 12,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer every year in the U.S. It is most often discovered after a Pap test finds abnormal cells on the cervix. It is important to keep in mind that an abnormal test result does not mean you have cervical cancer. However, if the abnormal cells are left untreated, it can lead to cancer.

The human papillomavirus (HPV) is a sexually transmitted disease that causes most cases of cervical cancer. Most individuals have HPV at one point in their lives, but it often goes away on its own. However, some types of HPV can cause cancerous cells to grow.

Cervical Cancer Treatment

Gynecologic Oncology at Penn State Cancer Institute provides comprehensive care for women with pelvic malignancies, including cervical cancer. 

We are also major site for the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH)-sponsored Gynecologic Oncology Group. This helps us deliver the latest advances in care. 

Our comprehensive services include:

  • Treating cancers of the vagina, cervix, uterus, fallopian tube and ovary 
  • Evaluating abnormal or difficult Pap smears results
  • Evaluating and treating dysplasia of the vulva, vagina or cervix
  • Evaluating and treating pelvic masses
  • Evaluating and treating abnormal uterine bleeding and endometrial hyperplasia 
  • Gynecologic surgery, including medically compromised, or surgically challenging cases
  • Chemotherapy
  • Investigational therapies for patients with gynecologic cancers or malignancies
  • Collaborative treatment plans with local oncologists for chemotherapy, radiation, and follow-up treatment
  • Second opinions

Cervical Cancer Symptoms and Diagnosis

Cervical cancer is most often discovered after a Pap test finds abnormal cells on the cervix.


Symptoms of cervical cancer include:

  • Bleeding after sex
  • Bleeding between periods
  • Bleeding after menopause
  • Unusual vaginal discharge
  • Pain during sex

If you experience any of these symptoms, or have other concerns about your reproductive health, you should schedule an appointment with your doctor right away.


During your appointment, your doctor will complete a comprehensive exam, including:

  • Asking questions about personal and family medical history
  • Pelvic exam
  • Pap test

If any of the tests or exams have abnormal results, your doctor will order additional tests. Those may include a colposcopy. Your doctor will examine your cervix with a magnifying glass, similar to a Pap test. A biopsy will be collected if your doctor sees any abnormalities. The tissue from the biopsy will be sent to a lab to identify pre-cancerous cells. 

Your doctor may order another biopsy if tests show abnormal results. Diagnostic tests may also be ordered to learn more about the severity of abnormalities and if cancerous cells have spread. 

Your doctor may refer you to a gynecologic oncologist if cervical cancer is found. Together, you and your gynecologic oncologist will work to create a plan that is right for you. 

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