What is cervical cancer?

Cervical cancer starts in the cells of the cervix. The cervix is the narrow, lower part of the uterus (or womb). It is the passageway that connects the uterus to the vagina.


The cervix is part of a woman’s reproductive system. It makes mucus, which helps sperm move from the vagina into the uterus or stops sperm from entering the uterus. Every month during your menstrual period, the lining of the uterus is shed through the cervix into the vagina. During birth, the cervix opens (dilates) and the baby passes from the uterus to the vagina and out of the body.



Before cervical cancer develops, the cells of the cervix start to change and become abnormal. These abnormal cells are precancerous, meaning they are not cancer. Precancerous changes to the cervix are called dysplasia of the cervix (or cervical dysplasia). Dysplasia of the cervix is a common precancerous change that can develop into cancer if it isn’t treated. It is important to know that most women with dysplasia do not develop cancer.

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We can give information about cancer care and support services in Canada only. To find a cancer organization in your country, visit Union for International Cancer Control or International Cancer Information Service Group.