A woman’s cervix (the opening of the uterus at the top of the vagina) is covered by a thin layer of tissue made up of cells. Healthy cells grow, divide, and are replaced as needed. Cancer of the cervix occurs when these cells change. Cancer cells divide more rapidly. They may grow into deeper cell layers or spread to other organs. The cancer cells eventually form a mass of tissue called a tumor.
It often takes several years for cervical cancer to develop. During this time, the cells on or around the cervix become abnormal. The early cell changes that occur before cancer is present are called dysplasia or cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN).
The main cause of cervical cancer is human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. There are many types of HPV. Some types of HPV, called “high-risk types,” can cause cancer of the anus, cervix, vulva, vagina, and penis. They also can cause cancer of the head and neck. Other types have been linked to genital warts. There are three vaccines available that can protect against some types of HPV.
Pap smears check for abnormal cell changes of the cervix. This allows for early treatment so the abnormal cells do not become cancer. An HPV test also is available. It is used along with the Pap test to screen for cervical cancer in some women and as a follow-up test when a woman has an abnormal Pap test result.
This information was provided by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. For more information on cervical dysplasia click HERE.
Sandpoint Women's Health provides pap smears and other test for cervical dysplasia. Call 208-263-2173 to make an appointment with one of our highly skilled providers or click the button below to request an appointment.