Living with Adenocarcinoma, Cervical Cancer

Living With Cervical Cancer

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Cervical cancer starts in the cells lining the cervix -- the lower part of the uterus (womb). This is sometimes called the uterine cervix. The fetus grows in the body of the uterus (the upper part). The cervix connects the body of the uterus to the vagina (birth canal). The cervix is made of two different parts and is covered with two different types of cells. The part of the cervix closest to the body of the uterus is called the endocervix and is covered with glandular cells. The part next to the vagina is the exocervix (or ectocervix) and is covered in squamous cells. These two cell types meet at a place called the transformation zone. The exact location of the transformation zone changes as you age and if you give birth.

Most cervical cancers begin in the cells in the transformation zone. These cells do not suddenly change into cancer. Instead, the normal cells of the cervix first gradually develop pre-cancerous changes that turn into cancer. Doctors use several terms to describe these pre-cancerous changes, including cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN), squamous intraepithelial lesion (SIL), and dysplasia. These changes can be detected by the Pap test (see The Pap test).
Although cervical cancers start from cells with pre-cancerous changes (pre-cancers), only some of the women with pre-cancers of the cervix will develop cancer. It usually takes several years for cervical pre-cancer to change to cervical cancer, but it can happen in less than a year. For most women, pre-cancerous cells will go away without any treatment. Still, in some women pre-cancers turn into true (invasive) cancers. Treating all cervical pre-cancers can prevent almost all true cervical cancers.

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