The cervix is a 2-3 cms long organ of the female reproductive system and is the lower narrower part of the uterus. The lower part bulges in the vagina and is known as the ectocervix and the rest of the part is known as supravaginal portion of the cervix. The cervical canal is lined with mucosa and is known as the endocervix while the mucosa that lines the ectocervix is known as exocervix. 

The cervical canal forms the pathway for the entry of semen and thus helps in the process of fertilization leading to reproduction. The cervix increases the chances of fertilization by containing some of the sperms in the infoldings and release it slowly. It also plays a major role in childbirth. The cervix helps to rest and support the first descending part of the fetus, usually the head, and as labour progresses, the cervix becomes softer and shorter, begins to dilate and rotates to face anteriorly. The support the cervix provides to the fetal head starts to give way when the uterus begins its contractions.

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Frequently asked questions about Cervix

What are the signs of weak cervix?

A weak cervix can lead to termination of pregnancy or birth of a preterm infant. 

Usually the women don’t feel any symptoms for a weak cervix but some of the symptoms that may occur are:

  • A sensation of pelvic pressure
  • A backache
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Changes in the characteristics of vaginal discharge
  • Light vaginal bleeding/spotting
What causes cervical cancer?

In most of the cases, the cause of cervical cancer is HPV (human papilloma virus) infection. Regular screening for HPV infection in women aged 30 years or more can prevent the occurrence of cervical cancer.

What are the early signs of cervical cancer?

The early signs of cervical cancer are as below: 

  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding that occurs between menstrual periods or after menopause
  • Presence of blood in vaginal discharge or a thick and foul smelling discharge
  • Heavier menstrual periods or periods that last longer than usual
  • Pain or bleeding during sex
  • Bleeding during pelvic examination
  • Low back or pelvic pain
  • Frequent and painful urination
  • Leg swelling
What are the risk factors of cervical Cancer?

Risk factors for cervical cancer include:

  • Multiple sexual partners: increase the chances of acquiring HPV.
  • Early sexual activity:  Having sex at an early age before 16 years or within a year of periods starting increases the risk of HPV.
  • STDs (Sexually Transmitted Diseases) like syphilis, chlamydia, gonorrhea or HIV/AIDS can increase the risk of HPV infection
  • Weak immune system. AIDS can also cause HPV infection and weaken the immune system and hence poses a high risk
  • consumption of birth control pills for more than five years
  • Smoking. It can cause squamous cell carcinoma of the cervix
How long does it take for cervical cancer to develop?

Cervical cancer grows very slowly. It takes almost 15-20 years after the onset of the abnormal changes in the cells of the cervix for the cancer to grow into a one that can cause malignancy. If the patient has a weakened immune system, the cancer might develop in 5-10 years. Infection from HPV (Human Papillomavirus) or other Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) like syphilis, chlamydia, gonorrhea or HIV/AIDS can hasten the process of developing the cancer.

What is the most common surgical procedure for cervical cancer?

Depending on the stage of cancer, the surgery type is decided. The most common treatment for early-stage cervical cancers is radical hysterectomy. This includes the complete surgical removal of the cervix, uterus, and fallopian tubes and the ovaries. 

What causes pain in cervix?

Inflammation of the cervix, called cervicitis, usually causes pain in lower back or pelvis.

Can cervical cancer be cured?

Cervical cancer is often curable if diagnosed at an early stage. When cervical cancer is not curable, it is possible to slow the progression, prolong lifespan and relieve any associated symptoms, such as pain and vaginal bleeding.

What does a cervical screening test involve?

The test involves the Pap smear test and the HPV test. The Pap smear is the primary detection method for asymptomatic preinvasive cervical dysplasia of squamous epithelial lining of the cervix. Pap smear is highly effective in reducing the incidence of cervical cancer by early detection and subsequent surgical treatment.

Is an inflamed cervix a sign of cancer?

Inflamed cervix may be due to cervicitis. If cervicitis becomes chronic, it might lead to formation of precancerous lesions.

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The common conditions that affect the cervix are:

  • Acute and chronic cervicitis
  • Endocervical polyps
  • Premalignant and malignant neoplasms of the cervix (cervical cancer)
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease which includes other organs of the reproductive system and usually starts with cervicitis.

Common symptoms of cervix disorders are:

  • Irregular vaginal spotting or bleeding
  • Lower back pain and abdominal pain
  • Vaginal itching or irritation
  • Pain or bleeding during sex
  • Frequent and painful urination
  • Unusual gray or white foul smelling discharge
  • Feeling of pressure in the pelvis
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