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Understanding Changes in Your Cervix

Your cervix is the lowest part of your uterus. Cells in the cervix are always changing. In some cases, these cells can change to become abnormal. This is called dysplasia. Dysplasia can turn into cancer. But with regular Pap tests, dysplasia can be caught and treated early.

Front view of woman's pelvis showing cross section of uterus, cervix, and vagina.

The role of the cervix

The cervix is circular. It connects the uterus to your vagina and provides a passage for menstrual blood and sperm. During pregnancy, it helps hold the fetus inside your uterus. During birth, the baby passes through the cervix during childbirth.

How problems may form

  • Normal cells in the cervix flatten as they grow. They form a protective layer as they move toward the surface of the cervix.

    Cross section of cervix showing normal cells.

  • Dysplasia starts when cells on the surface of the cervix change in ways that are not normal. Cells may grow irregularly. They may become cancer.

    Cross section of cervix with dysplasia showing abnormal cells.

  • Invasive cancer occurs when abnormal cells spread. They move from the surface into deeper parts of the cervix. They may then spread to other areas of the body.

    Cross section of cervix with arrows showing spread of cancer cells.

Online Medical Reviewer: Donna Freeborn PhD CNM FNP
Online Medical Reviewer: Irina Burd MD PhD
Online Medical Reviewer: Louise Cunningham RN BSN
Date Last Reviewed: 5/1/2020
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