Cervical cancer begins when healthy cells in the cervix acquire a genetic change (mutation) that causes them to turn into abnormal cells. When cells in the cervix become abnormal and multiply rapidly, cervical cancer can develop. Cervical cancer can be life-threatening if it goes undetected or untreated. A specific type of virus called human papilloma virus (HPV) causes almost all of the cases of cervical cancer. It takes several years to several decades for cervical cancer to develop in the body, from the onset of HPV infection in women. This period of time may however be less in immune-compromised women.
Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
There are over 100 different types of HPV, most of which are considered low-risk and do not cause cervical cancer. More than 70 percent of cervical cancer cases can be attributed to two types of the virus, HPV-16 and HPV-18, often referred to as high-risk HPV types. High-risk HPV types may cause cervical cell abnormalities or cancer. Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a very common sexually transmitted infection. The majority of women infected with the HPV virus do NOT develop cervical cancer. For most women the HPV infection does not last long; 90% of HPV infections resolve on their own within 2 years. A small number of women do not clear the HPV virus and are considered to have “persistent infection. A woman with a persistent HPV infection is at greater risk of developing cervical cell abnormalities and cancer than a woman whose infection resolves on its own. These cervical cancer abnormalities can result in pre-cancerous lesions that are easily treatable if detected early.