Causes and Diagnoses

Causes and Diagnoses of Cervical Cancer

Cervical cancer is usually caused by human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV includes a group of 150 related viruses, some of which cause genital warts. HPV is very common and often goes away on its own. When other risk factors are present, HPV may lead to cervical cancer. Risk factors include:

  • Smoking
  • Being overweight
  • Using oral contraceptives
  • Early sex or having many sexual partners
  • Having other sexually transmitted diseases
  • Having a weak immune system
  • Having multiple full term pregnancies
  • Getting pregnant before age 17
  • Having a family history of cervical cancer
  • Other lifestyle factors such as diet and activity

Talk to your primary care physician about your risk for cervical cancer.


Regular visits to your gynecologist should help identify early signs of cervical cancer. During your pelvic exam, your physician will look for masses and irregularities on the cervix, uterus, ovaries, vagina and vulva. A Pap test will check for the presence of cancer cells on the cervix.

If cancer is suspected, you may receive diagnostic tests to confirm the diagnosis and determine the cancer’s advancement. Tests include:

  • Ultrasound: Ultrasounds use sound waves to create images of interior organs
  • CT scan: A CT scan is an imaging procedure that creates detailed or three-dimensional images
  • MRI: MRIs make detailed images using a magnetic field instead of radiation
  • Colposcopy: Your physician views the cervix and vagina with a lighted, magnifying lens
  • Dilation and curettage (D&C): The cervix is dilated so abnormal tissue can be removed from the cervical canal and uterine lining
  • Loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP): This procedure uses a heated wire loop to remove cells and tissue
  • Biopsy: A small tissue sample is removed for examination under a microscope
  • Laparoscopy: A thin, lighted tube inserted through a small incision in the lower abdomen sends images to a video monitor
  • Blood tests: A sample of your blood is taken for examination