The cervix

The cervix is the lower part of the womb (uterus) that joins to the top of the vagina. It is sometimes called the neck of the womb. Cervical cancer can sometimes spread through the lymphatic system.

What is the cervix?

The cervix is the lower part of the womb (uterus) that joins to the top of the vagina. It is sometimes called the neck of the womb. It is the part of the womb that opens (dilates) during childbirth to allow a baby to be born. People who have a cervix include women, transgender (trans) men and people assigned female at birth.

The womb is a muscular, pear-shaped organ. The lining of the womb is shed each month when you have your period.

 

The image shows the lower abdomen, pelvis and the top of the legs from the front. A narrow opening is shown between the legs. This leads into a narrow space shown inside the pelvis. This space is called the vagina. Above the vagina the space narrows until both sides almost touch. Then it opens again to form a hollow, pear-shaped organ called the womb. At either side of the upper end of the womb are two small, solid oval shapes. These are the ovaries. They are connected to either side of the womb by narrow tubes called the fallopian tubes.  An area of the image has been enlarged. This shows a close-up of the narrowest area between the vagina and the womb. The lower end of the womb bulges into the top of the vaginal space. The surfaces of the two sides of the bulge are highlighted. This is the cervix.
Image: Cervix and surrounding structures

 

 

Cervical cancer and the lymphatic system

The lymphatic system helps to protect us from infection and disease. It also drains lymph fluid from the tissues of the body before returning it to the blood. The lymphatic system is made up of fine tubes called lymphatic vessels that connect to groups of lymph nodes throughout the body.

The illustration shows the lower abdomen, pelvis and the top of the legs from the front. A narrow opening is shown between the legs. This leads into a narrow space shown inside the pelvis. This space is called the vagina. Above the vagina the space narrows until both sides almost touch. Then it opens again to form a hollow, pear-shaped organ called the womb. The surfaces of the two sides are highlighted where they narrow between the vagina and the womb. The highlighted area is the cervix.  At either side of the upper end of the womb are two small, solid oval shapes. These are the ovaries. They are connected to either side of the womb by narrow tubes called the fallopian tubes. A network of fine lines connecting small, oval shapes is shown. This is the lymphatic system and lymph nodes. This network enters the illustration just above the tummy button. The network then splits in to two main streams. These streams are shown sitting over each ovary, down each side of the womb and into the area each side of the vagina at the top of the legs. These are called the pelvic lymph nodes.
Image: Pelvic lymph nodes
 

Lymph nodes (sometimes called lymph glands) are small and bean shaped. They filter bacteria (germs) and disease from the lymph fluid. When you have an infection, lymph nodes often swell as they fight the infection.

Sometimes, cancer can spread through the lymphatic system. If cervical cancer spreads in this way, it is most likely to affect the lymph nodes in or above the pelvis.

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    This information has been written, revised and edited by Macmillan Cancer Support’s Cancer Information Development team. It has been reviewed by expert medical and health professionals and people living with cancer. It has been approved by Senior Medical Editor, Professor Nick Reed, Consultant Clinical Oncologist.

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