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Cervical Cancer

Although aggressive new therapies are being evaluated by gynecologic cancer experts at the Kelly Gynecologic Oncology Service and Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins, early detection and diagnosis remain a woman's best opportunity to treat gynecologic cancers. Routine annual gynecologic examinations are the first line of defense.

Preventing cervical cancer is the goal of experts leading the Cervical Dysplasia Center.  Experts evaluate, monitor and test new treatments on precancerous lesions in order to block their ability to progress to cancer.

More information on Pap Testing in the Baltimore Community

More information on Mammograms in the Baltimore Community

Cervical Cancer Experts

A multidisciplinary group of experts coordinates care for patients, leads pivotal clinical trials and continues to set care standards for cervical cancer.

Experts at the Cervical Dysplasia Center evaluate cervical lesions, provide treatment recommendations and conduct ground-breaking research.

About Cervical Cancer

Cervical cancer is the only gynecologic cancer that, in most instances, can be avoided by regular Pap test screening, and a new vaccine is available to young women to prevent HPV infection, a prevalent virus known to cause most cases of cervical cancer. The Pap test, a simple procedure that can be performed during routine gynecologic visits, detects pre-cancerous changes in the cervix. Following the development of this test, mortality rates from cervical cancer have dropped by more than 70 percent. Still, thousands of U.S. women will die annually from cervical cancer. Learn more about cervical cancer screening and prevention.

Our physicians offer valuable advantages in the diagnosis of gynecologic cancers. Because it is difficult to distinguish between some types of cancerous and benign cells on biopsies, our gynecologists created a special division headed by a gynecologist who is board certified in both obstetrics/gynecology and pathology (the study of tissue and cells). The field of gynecologic pathology was pioneered at Hopkins, where specialized pathologists examine all gynecologic cancer tissue samples.

Cancer Symptoms

Early cervical cancer also does not cause many symptoms, but when the cancer spreads, women may experience abnormal bleeding and increased vaginal discharge. Other symptoms may include difficult or painful urination, pain during intercourse, or pain in the pelvic area.

Current Treatments

Surgery, radiation, hormone therapy or chemotherapy may be used to treat gynecologic cancers. The treatment plan depends on a number of factors, including the type and stage of disease, the woman's age and her general health.

Approximately one in every 20 women in the U.S. will be diagnosed with a gynecologic cancer in her lifetime. though many of these cancers are preventable, studies indicate that many women are not aware of the risks or preventative measures available. The Johns Hopkins Breast and Ovarian Surveillance Service (BOSS) uses research dicoveries about the inherited predispositions and the genetic causes of these cancers to provide individualized risk assessment for women. BOSS experts discuss cancer susceptibility and risk factors, genetic testing, and screening and prevention.

Gynecologic cancer patients have access to all the counseling and support services of the Kimmel Cancer Center, including therapists who specialize in the diseases and their psychological impact on patients and families, support groups for patients and support groups for their families.

New Treatment Approaches

A team of researchers at the Kimmel Cancer Center has developed a possible new weapon in the fight against cervical cancer. Clinical studies of therapeutic vaccine that targets an antigen of the human papillomavirus (HPV) most commonly associated with cervical cancer are underway. The vaccine works by activating the immune system against all cells expressing the antigen. Investigators expect this new therapy will stop the progression of pre-cancerous lesions to actual cancers. Research studies are now underway on the vaccine to prevent cervical cancer in women positive for certain types of HPV. For questions regarding the HPV vaccine clinical trial call Mihaela Paradis (study coordinator) or Betty Sauter (research nurse) at 410-502-0512. For more information about new treatments for abnormal pap smears, please visit the web site for the Johns Hopkins Center for Cervical Dysplasia. Our researchers believe this vaccine will be a model not just for cervical cancer but also for other virus-associated cancers.

Cervical Cancer Survivorship

Cervical cancer survivors may have lingering or permanent side effects from therapy and many may have to create a new “normal.” Give your body time to heal and adjust and be patient. Always discuss any health concerns and symptoms with your doctor.

Premenopausal women who had their ovaries removed or irradiated will likely experience menopause and related symptoms such as hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and irritability. Talk to your doctor to see if hormone replacement therapy would be beneficial.

Your sexuality also may be affected by your cancer and its treatment. Surgery and radiation can result in vaginal shortening; radiation also may cause your vagina to become scarred and dryer – changes increasing your risk of bleeding with intercourse. Using a dilator and having open discussions with your partner can help.

Radiation can lead to other long-term side effects, including bladder irritation, blood in the urine, bowel irritation leading to diarrhea or blood in the stools.

As you recover, take charge of your health by eating healthy, exercising and reducing stress. It is especially important to stop smoking, as smoking increases the risk of cervical cancer recurring. Limit alcohol intake. Keep up with screenings for other cancers, like mammograms and colonoscopies.

The Johns Hopkins Kelly Gynecologic Oncology Service is one of the world leaders in oncology care for women with cancer of the female reproductive tract, offering comprehensive, state-of-the-art cervical cancer diagnosis and treatment. The National Cervical Cancer Coalition’s website provides information and resources for cervical cancer patients and resources, including a section on survivor stories.The Society for Gynecologic Oncology’s website has a section dedicated to patients, caregivers and survivors. It includes a Survivorship Toolkit with resources to help you organize information about your diagnosis, treatment and long-term follow-up care. The Women’s Cancer Network has an interactive website to inform women about clinical trials and research in gynecologic cancers.