This topic talks about the testing, diagnosis, and treatment of cervical cancer. For general information about abnormal Pap test results, see the topic Abnormal Pap Test.
Cervical cancer occurs when abnormal cells on the cervix camera.gif grow out of control. The cervix is the lower part of the uterus that opens into the vagina. Cervical cancer can often be successfully treated when it’s found early. It is usually found at a very early stage through a Pap test.
Cervical cancer is one of the most common cancers in women worldwide. But in the United States and other countries where cervical cancer screening is routine, this cancer is not so common.1
Most cervical cancer is caused by a virus called human papillomavirus, or HPV. You can get HPV by having sexual contact with someone who has it. There are many types of the HPV virus. Not all types of HPV cause cervical cancer. Some of them cause genital warts, but other types may not cause any symptoms.
Most adults have been infected with HPV at some time. An infection may go away on its own. But sometimes it can cause genital warts or lead to cervical cancer. That’s why it’s important for women to have regular Pap tests. A Pap test can find changes in cervical cells before they turn into cancer. If you treat these cell changes, you may prevent cervical cancer.
How Is Breast Cancer Diagnosed?
Breast cancer responds to treatment best when it is detected early. The most effective way to detect breast cancer is by mammography.
A clinical — or physical — breast exam by your doctor complements mammography screening. Medical organizations don’t agree on the recommendation to check your breasts yourself. Breast self-exams are an option for women starting in their 20s. Patients should discuss the benefits and limitations of breast self-exams with their doctors.
Breast Self-Exams and Mammograms
If you decide to do breast self-exam, make sure to go over how to perform it with your health care provider. Premenstrual changes can cause temporary thickening that disappears after your period, so it may be better to check your breasts three to five days after your period ends. If a breast self-exam makes you anxious or you have questions about how to perform it, consult your health care provider.
Look for dimpling or changes in shape or symmetry. This may be best done by looking in a mirror. The rest of the breast self-exam is easiest in the shower, using soap to smooth your skin. Using light pressure, you should check for lumps near the surface. Use firm pressure to explore deeper tissues. Pinch all segments of the nipple and areola (the pigment area around the nipple) gently. If there is any discharge from the nipple — especially if it is bloody — see your doctor.