About cervical cancer

Each year, over 2800 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer in the UK. It usually affects women over the age of 20. The highest rates occur in women aged between 30–34.

How cervical cancer develops

Cervical cancer takes many years to develop. Before it develops, changes take place in the cells of the cervix. These changes are called cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN). CIN is not cancer. However, you may hear some doctors or nurses describing it as a pre-cancerous condition. This is because if it is not treated it might develop into cancer. Most women with CIN do not develop cancer, and if treatment is needed for CIN it is nearly always effective.

Types of cervical cancer

There are two main types of cervical cancer. The most common is squamous cell carcinoma. This develops from flat cells that cover the outer surface of the cervix at the top of the vagina.

The other type is adenocarcinoma. This develops from glandular cells that line the cervical canal (the endocervix) . This can be more difficult to detect with cervical screening tests.

Less common types of cervical cancer are:

  • adenosquamous carcinomas
  • clear-cell carcinoma
  • small-cell carcinoma and neuroendocrine carcinoma.

Our cancer support specialists can give you more information about these types of cervical cancer – call us on 0808 808 00 00.

Tests will show which type of cervical cancer you have. They also give information about the stage of the cancer and whether there are signs of microscopic cancer cells in the lymph or blood vessels. This information, along with a physical examination and the results of further tests, will help your doctors decide which type of treatment is best for you.

Back to Understanding

What is cancer?

There are more than 200 different kinds of cancer, each with its own name and treatment.

How is it treated?

There are five main types of cancer treatment. You may receive one, or a combination of treatments, depending on your cancer type.

The cervix

The cervix is the lower part of the womb (uterus). It joins to the top of the vagina.