Cervical Cancer

The cervix is the lower, narrow part of the uterus that connects to the vagina. Dysplasia is a pre-cancer – the growth of abnormal cells on the surface of the cervix.

Certain types of cervical dysplasia disappear over time. But other types slowly change, spread more deeply into the surrounding tissues and lead to cervical cancer.

In a series of videos that starts with the one below, Dr. Chirag Shag describes how cervical cancer and dysplasia are detected and treated and the benefits of robotic surgery.

Cervical cancer is not common in the U.S. today. That's because pre-cancerous cells are typically found during a routine Pap smear. Only about 11,000 new cases are diagnosed each year. Cervical dysplasia, however, is on the rise.

Diagnosing Dysplasia & Cervical Cancer
Treatment to Spare the Cervix and Uterus
Removing Cancer Through Hysterectomy

If caught early, both are often cured through surgery. At Swedish, gynecological oncologists successfully treat dysplasia and early cervical cancer with robotic hysterectomy.

Diagnosing Dysplasia & Cervical Cancer

Cervical dysplasia does not usually cause any symptoms. When abnormal cells become cancerous and invade nearby tissue, symptoms may appear. The most common symptom is abnormal bleeding.

A Pap smear and a pelvic exam are routinely done during a woman's annual checkup. A Pap smear involves scraping a few cells from the cervix to be tested for abnormalities.

If abnormal cells are found, other tests include:

  • HPV test: testing cells for the HPV virus, which is linked to cervical cancer
  • Colposcopy: using a lighted scope to check the vagina and cervix
  • Biopsy: removing suspicious cells during a colposcopy to be examined by a pathologist

If cervical cancer is found, further tests and procedures are performed to determine if and how much the cancer has spread. This process is called staging. The specialists at the Swedish Cancer Institute have the widest range of staging technology available.

Much more information about diagnosing and staging cervical cancer is available at the Swedish Cancer Institute.

Treatment to Spare the Cervix and Uterus

If pre-cancerous tissue covers only a small area, or if a tumor is very small, it may be possible to remove it without removing the cervix. Procedures include:

  • Conization: removing the tissue during a cervical biopsy
  • Cryosurgery: using an instrument that freezes and destroys abnormal tissue
  • Laser surgery: using a laser beam as a knife to remove a tumor
  • Loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP): using electrical current passed through a thin wire loop to remove abnormal tissue

For women who still want to become pregnant, these procedures may be viable options.

Removing Cancer Through Hysterectomy

Hysterectomy – surgically removing the cervix and uterus – is the most common procedure for curing cervical cancer. Depending on the spread of the cancer, the ovaries, fallopian tubes and/or part of the vagina may also be removed.

Methods of hysterectomy include:

  • Open hysterectomy: a major surgery which involves a long incision across the abdomen
  • Robotic hysterectomy: an improved method of laparoscopy that gives surgeons improved visibility and flexibility during surgery.

Vaginal hysterectomy is not an option for gynecological cancers because surgeons need to look within the abdominal cavity to see if the cancer has spread.

For early stage cervical cancer, studies show that 90 percent of patients who undergo hysterectomies will not need additional therapy.

For advanced cancer, treatment plans typically include some combination of chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

The Swedish Cancer Institute offers a full spectrum of care and services, from promising new treatments in clinical trials to patient-support services that include counseling and group therapy.