About cervical cancer

Cervical cancer is one of the most preventable cancers. It is a cancer found in the cells of the cervix.

Page last updated: 28 October 2016

The cervix is the lower part or ‘neck’ of the uterus where it joins the inner end of the vagina.

There are two main types of cervical cancer:

  • Squamous cell carcinoma is the most common type of cervical cancer, accounting for about 80 per cent of all cases. It starts in the squamous cells that line the outer surface of the cervix.
  • Adenocarcinoma accounts for about 20 per cent of cervical cancers. It develops from the glandular cells, often located higher up in the cervix.
There is a third type of cervical cancer called neuroendocrine or small cell cervical cancer. These cervical cancers are rare and often aggressive.

female reproductive system

Cervical cancer in Australia

Cervical cancer is now an uncommon disease in Australia. The number of women diagnosed with cervical cancer has halved since the introduction of the National Cervical Screening Program in 1991.

It is estimated that in 2016, 903 women will be diagnosed with cervical cancer and 250 women will die from the disease.

Read more about cervical cancer in Australia.

Cervical cancer risk factors

Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection is found in almost all cases of cervical cancer.

Increasing age, smoking and lowered immunity may increase the risk of cervical cancer.

Cervical cancer symptoms

In the early stages of cervical cancer, there are usually no symptoms at all. Should symptoms appear they may include:
  • abnormal vaginal bleeding (between periods, after menopause or after sex)
  • unusual vaginal discharge
  • pain during intercourse
  • excessive tiredness
  • leg pain or swelling
  • lower back pain.
These symptoms can be caused by other health issues and you should contact your Health Care Professional if you have any concerns.

More information about cervical cancer is available at the Cancer Australia and Cancer Council Australia websites.

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