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Understanding Changes in Your Cervix

Your cervix is the lowest part of your uterus. Cells in the cervix are always changing. In some cases, these cells can change to become abnormal. This is called dysplasia. Dysplasia can turn into cancer. But with regular Pap tests, dysplasia can be caught and treated early.

Cross section of uterus, cervix, and vagina.

The Role of the Cervix

The cervix is circular. It connects the uterus to your vagina. It provides a passage for menstrual blood and sperm. The baby passes through it during childbirth. During pregnancy, it helps hold the fetus inside your uterus.

How Problems May Form

  • Normal cells in the cervix flatten as they grow. They form a protective layer as they move toward the surface of the cervix.

  • Dysplasia begins when cells on the surface of the cervix change in ways that are not normal. Cells may grow irregularly. They may become cancer.

  • Invasive cancer occurs when abnormal cells spread. They move from the surface into deeper parts of the cervix. They may then spread to other areas of the body.

Cross section of cervix showing normal cells.
Normal cells

Cross section of cervix showing dysplasia.
Dysplasia

Cross section of cervix showing invasive cancer. Arrows show cancer spreading out of cervix.
Invasive cancer

Author: StayWell Custom Communications
Last Annual Review Date: 4/14/2010
Copyright © The StayWell Company, LLC. except where otherwise noted.
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