The cervix is the lower part of the uterus, the place where a baby grows during pregnancy. Cervical cancer is caused by several types of a virus called human papillomaviruses (HPV). The virus spreads through sexual contact. Most women's bodies are able to fight HPV infection. But sometimes the virus leads to cancer. You're at higher risk if you smoke, have many children, use birth control pills for a long time, or have HIV infection.
Cervical cancer may not cause any symptoms at first, but later, you may have pelvic pain or bleeding from the vagina. It usually takes several years for normal cells in the cervix to turn into cancer cells. Your health care provider can find abnormal cells by doing a Pap test - examining cells from the cervix under a microscope. By getting regular Pap tests and pelvic exams you can find and treat changing cells before they turn into cancer.
A vaccine for girls and young women protects against the four types of HPV that cause most cervical cancers.