The cervix is a small passage between a woman’s womb and vagina. Cervical cancer is cancer that starts in the cells of the cervix.
Cervical cancer is one of the most common cancers in women, with around 570,000 women being diagnosed worldwide in 2018.  It mainly affects women between the ages of 30 and 45 who are sexually active. 
Almost all cervical cancers are caused by a virus called human papillomavirus (HPV), which is passed from person to person through skin to skin contact in the genital area. Therefore, people who are sexually active are more likely to catch the virus. HPV is a very common virus but there are some strains of the virus (called ‘high-risk’) that are more harmful than others (called ‘low-risk’). Most HPV infections will not result in cervical cancer as the body’s immune system usually fights and clears the virus. However, persistent infections of high-risk HPV can cause changes in the cells of the cervix, which given time may develop into cancer. Regular testing allows the HPV virus to be detected and treated before it develops into cervical cancer. There are two tests that can detect HPV:
There is also an HPV vaccine that aims to stop people from catching the HPV virus. The HPV vaccine can be given to women and men of any age but is most commonly recommended for teenage girls and young women. This is because it works best before a person comes into contact with HPV, which is usually through sexual contact. 
Although the vaccine protects against most types of cancer-causing HPV, it is not 100% effective so people who have had the vaccine should still attend cervical screening. 
Although almost all cervical cancers are caused by HPV, there are some factors that are known to increase the chance of a person developing this disease, called ‘risk factors’. Having a risk factor does not mean that you will definitely get the disease. Some risk factors for cervical cancer are: 
There are certain things that you can do to reduce the chance of you getting cervical cancer:
Women with unusual cervical cells do not always have symptoms, which is why attending regular cervical screenings and/or HPV testing is so important. Some symptoms that might occur include: 
Some other symptoms that might occur in more advanced cervical cancer are: [1, 8]
If your doctor thinks you might have cervical cancer, they will send you for some tests. These may include: 
Once your diagnosis is confirmed, further tests will be performed to help doctors to understand the type, stage and grade of your cervical cancer (more information on these can be found below). These tests may include a pelvic examination (a doctor will examine all of the organs in your pelvis while you are under anaesthetic), scans (MRI or CT), blood tests or x-rays. 
There are 2 main types of cervical cancer: 
The stage of your cervical cancer describes where the cancer is and how far it has spread into nearby tissues and/or around the body. 
The grade of your cervical cancer describes how fast it is likely to grow and spread around the body. 
The most common treatments for cervical cancer are surgery (to remove as much of the cancer as possible), radiotherapy and chemotherapy (to kill cancer cells). Treatment will vary based on the type, stage and grade of your cervical cancer, and will depend on what is approved in your country.  If your cancer is only in the cervix, you are likely to be treated with radiotherapy and/or surgery. If your cancer has spread into the pelvis or other organs, you are likely to be treated with radiotherapy and/or chemotherapy. [13, 14]
If you have surgery, the surgeons will try to remove as much of the cancer as possible from affected areas. Your doctor may recommend a procedure called a hysterectomy, which can involve removing some or part of the reproductive organs, including the cervix, womb, fallopian tubes and ovaries, to give you the best possible outcome and reduce the likelihood that your cancer will come back after treatment. If you have very early stage cervical cancer, you may be able to have minimal surgery that would still allow you to become pregnant. 
If you are given radiotherapy, you may be given external radiotherapy (given from outside the body) and/or internal radiotherapy (given from inside the body). 
Chemotherapies are drugs that aim to stop cancer cells from growing. You may be given chemotherapy for later stage cervical cancer. Sometimes chemotherapy is given with radiotherapy to help the radiotherapy work better. This is called chemoradiotherapy. Chemotherapy may be given as a mixture of drugs as this sometimes works better than one type of chemotherapy on its own. Chemotherapy is given as an infusion into your vein over a few hours. You will need to go to your hospital or clinic regularly to be given chemotherapy treatment, and the exact timing of your visits will be decided by your doctor. 
Depending on the type and stage of your cervical cancer, and at what point in your treatment you are, you may also be given one of the following treatments, depending on what is approved in your country:
There are new treatments being developed for cervical cancer. Clinical trials investigate these new drugs and compare them with the current therapies already available. If you would like to know more about clinical trials, or are interested in taking part in a clinical trial, speak to your doctor or visit the clinical trials page on the Roche ForPatients platform (https://forpatients.roche.com/en/faq/what-is-a-clinical-trial.html).
The outlook for cervical cancer depends on the type, stage and grade of the cancer when it is diagnosed. [19, 20] Please talk to your doctor about the outlook for your cervical cancer.