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What is Cervical Carcinoma?

By Madeleine A.
Updated May 17, 2024
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Cervical carcinoma refers to a malignancy or cancer that develops in the epithelium of the cervix. The epithelium is the cellular layer that covers the cervical canal. Epithelial cells have three basic shapes: squamous, cuboidal and columnar. Generally, squamous cells are the scaly and flat cells where most cervical carcinoma arises. In addition, columnar cells are usually where cancers known as cervical adenocarcinomas arise.

Rarely, cervical carcinoma may originate in the cells that comprise the tissue that supports the cervix. Generally, cervical carcinoma begins as a precancerous medical condition. Typically, it takes years before precancerous cells progress to cervical carcinoma. Most often, when precancerous changes present themselves in the cervical lining, they are typically categorized by how extensive they have changed the tissue itself and how severe the changes are.

Cervical intraepithelial neoplasia, or CIN, is generally categorized as CIN I, CIN II, or CIN III. CIN I is generally used when only mild abnormalities are present in the cervix, and this condition rarely, if ever, progresses to cervical carcinoma. CIN II usually refers to when cells or lesions in the cervix appear more aggressive. Sometimes, CIN II may progress into cervical cancer if not treated. CIN III refers to the most severe form of dysplasia, and if not surgically removed, may progress to cancer.

Typically, CIN III needs to be surgically removed instead of just medically treated. Typically, if this type of cervical dysplasia is not removed via laser or conventional surgery, there is a strong possibility that it may progress to invasive cervical cancer. CIN III also refers to carcinoma in situ, which is a form of a non-invasive cervical carcinoma that is still in the early stages.

Generally, invasive cervical cancer occurs when malignant epithelial cells migrate to the stroma, which is the cervical support tissue. Frequently, in an invasive late-stage cervical carcinoma, the tumor may metastasize, or spread. Metastasis may occur to the uterus, bladder and rectum. Fortunately, a simple pap smear can generally detect precancerous cells before they become more aggressive.

Treatment of cervical cancer usually includes laser surgery, cryosurgery or total hysterectomy. Most often, if the patient is not a good surgical candidate, radiation therapy may be used as an effective alternative. Depending on the extent of the disease, a hysterectomy may include removal of both ovaries and the fallopian tubes. In advanced cases of cervical cancer, hysterectomy may also include removal of the vagina and pelvic lymph nodes.

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Discussion Comments

By fayebynum — On Mar 09, 2011

My sister was just diagnosed with precancerous cells in the cervix through a cervical biopsy. My mother was misdiagnosed and eight years later diagnosed with full blown cervical cancer. My sweet mother died. I think my sister should have a complete hysterectomy. She is 48 years old and is scared out of her mind. We have a long history of cancer in our family.

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