Reviewed by Joseph Maloney, M.D.
Cervical cancer is the third most common type of cancer among women in the United States. The average age of cancer diagnosis is 45; however, cervical cancer can afflict women in their 20s and 30s. Untreated, cervical cancer can spread to other pelvic organs, such as the uterus, rectum, and bladder. When cervical cancer is diagnosed in its early stages, the survival rate is very good.
Cervical cancer develops gradually over a period of several years. It can begin as cervical dysplasia, a condition that occurs when subtle changes take place in the superficial cells lining the cervix. Dysplasia is a pre-malignant condition. The next stage, noninvasive cancer, occurs when dysplasia progresses to the outer layer of the cervix. If the cancer is untreated in the noninvasive phase, it eventually spreads to deeper layers of tissue and then onto other organs, such as the uterus, rectum, and bladder.