Problems of the Cervix (the Opening of the Womb) 377
problems of the cervix that are not cancer
Nabothian cysts are small bumps on the cervix that
are filled with fluid. There are no
signs, but they can be seen during
a pelvic exam (with a speculum).
These cysts are harmless, so no
on the cervix
treatment is needed.
Polyps are dark red growths, sometimes found at the cervix. They
also grow inside the womb. They do not need to be treated. For
more about them, see ‘Common Growths of the Womb’, page 380.
Inflammation of the cervix. Many infections of the vagina—
like trichomonas—and some STIs affect the cervix, and can cause
growths, sores, or irritation and bleeding after sex. For more
information, including treatment, see the chapter on STIs.
Cancer of the cervix
Cancer of the cervix is the most common cause of death from
cancer among women in many parts of the world. It is caused
by the Human Papilloma Virus, or HPV. There are many types of
HPV and only a very few of them can cause cervical cancer. (A
different type of HPV causes genital warts.)
HPV is a common infection that many people will have in their
life. Most of these infections go away without treatment. HPV
infections that do not go away (persistent) can slowly cause cancer.
Because this cancer grows slowly, there is time to find it early and
completely cure it. Unfortunately, many women die from cervical
cancer because they never knew they had it.
The best time to be screened for cervical cancer is around the
age of 30, and every 5 years after that.
Women with HIV are more likely to get cervical cancer because
their immune systems are less able to fight the HPV. They should
be screened for cervical cancer, even if they are younger than 30.
Then they should be tested every 12 months if possible.
There are usually no outward signs of cancer of the cervix
until it has spread and is more difficult to treat. (There may be early
signs on the cervix, which can be seen during a pelvic exam. This is
why regular exams are so important.)
The later warning signs are abnormal bleeding from the vagina,
including bleeding after sex, and persistent abnormal discharge or
bad smell from the vagina. If you have any of these signs, try to get
a pelvic exam and a screening test.
If you are treated
with medicines for
a vaginal discharge
and do not get
better, you should
try to have your
and get a screening
test to look for
Where Women Have No Doctor 2012