Cervical Cancer

Cervical cancer overview

If you have a cervical cancer, your outcomes will be better if you are treated by a gynecologic oncologist right from the beginning.

Seattle Cancer Care Alliance has more gynecologic oncologists than any other medical center or clinic in the Pacific Northwest. They treat all types of gynecologic cancer, including cervical, endometrial, ovarian, and vulvar cancers, uterine sarcoma, and gestational trophoblastic disease.

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Where you're treated first matters most

The most important decision a person with cervical cancer will make is deciding where to get treated. Studies have shown that patients who begin their treatment at a top regional cancer center, like Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA), have better outcomes than those who start their treatment elsewhere. And here’s why:

  • Expert care: SCCA doctors treat only cancer and specialize in specific cancer types, such as gynecologic cancer. They have a deep understanding of their specialty since they diagnose and treat thousands of cancer cases every year. This experience builds their expertise that makes better outcomes possible.
  • Newest treatments: Doctors at SCCA have access to all the latest developments and research in treating cancer. Your care comes from combined expertise of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, UW Medicine, and Seattle Children's. Newsweek ran an article that explores the difference between getting treated at a top cancer center and a local community hospital. The disparity in outcomes, in many cases, can be quite striking.

When your treatment is complete, we'll keep close watch on your health through our Women’s Wellness Clinic  where we provide wellness-focused follow-up care  focused on cancer treatment recovery.

Early detection for cervical cancer

Cervical cancer used to be one of the most common causes of cancer death for American women, but widespread use of the Pap test has dramatically shifted detection to early precancerous and highly curable stages. However, more than 4,000 women die of cervical cancer in the United States each year, and an estimated 14,000 new cases of invasive cervical cancer are diagnosed.

If a Pap test shows an abnormality in the cells on the cervix, a doctor will perform a biopsy. A gynecologist will often use a colposcope--a viewing tube attached to magnifying binoculars--to find the abnormal area and remove a tiny section of the cervix surface.

The American Cancer Society recommends that women get a pap test every three years from their primary care doctor. If you don't have a primary doctor, you are welcome to review the University of Washington Physicians site to select a doctor that meets your needs at a neighborhood clinic close to you.

Cervical cancer is usually the result of a common virus: the human papilloma virus (HPV). In 2006, a vaccine, called Gardasil, became available that prevents the HPV virus, and thus the leading cause of cervical cancer, thanks in part to researchers from Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Our doctors suggest that young women follow the advice of their family practitioners or pediatricians about whether Gardasil is the right choice for them.

Risk Factors

The biggest risk for cervical cancer is exposure to the human papilloma virus (HPV), now considered the cause in 95 percent of cervical cancer cases. Most women have the virus at some time during their lifetimes, but for many their immune system will get rid of the virus without them even knowing that it was there. Some types of the virus can cause genital warts, and other types can cause changes in the cells of the cervix.

The changes in the cervix usually clear up once the immune system has rid the body of the virus. In some women, however, the virus remains present for a number of years, and in a few of these cases, the changes in the cervix will develop into cancer if left untreated.

Other risk factors include smoking, HIV, a high number of sexual partners and becoming sexually active at an early age.

Early detection for cervical cancer

Cervical cancer used to be one of the most common causes of cancer death for American women, but widespread use of the Pap test has dramatically shifted detection to early precancerous and highly curable stages. However, more than 4,000 women die of cervical cancer in the United States each year, and an estimated 14,000 new cases of invasive cervical cancer are diagnosed.

Treatment

Today, women facing cervical cancer have better treatment options than they did even a few years ago.

Providers

At SCCA, you receive care from a team of providers with extensive experience in your disease. Your team includes doctors, a team coordinator, a registered nurse, an advanced practice provider and others, based on your needs. You also have access to experts like nutritionists, social workers, acupuncturists, psychiatrists and more who specialize in supporting people with cancer or blood disorders.

Clinical trials

Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA) was formed, in part, to bring promising new treatments to patients faster. For cervical cancer patients, this means more treatment options at SCCA than you might find elsewhere, including the chance to participate in one of many ongoing clinical trials conducted at SCCA and its partner organizations, Fred Hutch and UW Medicine.