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Cervical cancer is cancer of the cervix, the lower end of a woman's uterus. It is preceded by a precancerous condition called CIN (cervical intraepithelial neoplasia) or cervical dysplasia which may or may not develop into cancer.
Various studies have predicted that, if left untreated, anything between 15% and 70% of CIN cases will eventually develop into invasive cervical cancer. Cervical cancer is the sixth most common cancer in women in the United States and the most common cancer in women in many economically underdeveloped countries. Only breast cancer causes more cancer-related deaths in women worldwide.
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Cancer: Refers to the various types of malignant neoplasms that contain cells growing out of control and invading adjacent tissues, which may metastasize to distant tissues.
Cervical Dysplasia: Abnormal cells on the surface of the cervix, classified as either mild (70% of cases fall into this category; the cells regress on their own), moderate, or severe, or as class 1, 2 or 3. While dysplasia itself does not cause health problems, it is considered to be a precancerous condition. Left untreated, dysplasia sometimes progresses to an early form of cancer known as cervical carcinoma in situ, and eventually to invasive cervical cancer.
Cervix: The lower part of the uterus that opens into the vagina.
HIV: Abbreviation for human immunodeficiency virus, a retrovirus associated with onset of advanced immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).
Immune System: A complex that protects the body from disease organisms and other foreign bodies. The system includes the humoral immune response and the cell-mediated response. The immune system also protects the body from invasion by making local barriers and inflammation.
Pap Test: Papanicolaou test. Microscopic examination of cells collected from the vagina and cervix to test for uterine cancer or dysplasia.
Precancerous Lesion: Abnormal tissue that is not yet malignant.
Virus: Any of a vast group of minute structures composed of a protein coat and a core of DNA and/or RNA that reproduces in the cells of the infected host. Capable of infecting all animals and plants, causing devastating disease in immunocompromised individuals. Viruses are not affected by antibiotics, and are completely dependent upon the cells of the infected host for the ability to reproduce.