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Cervical Health

What are Cervical Disorders?

The cervix is the lower part of the uterus, the place where a baby grows during pregnancy. The cervix has a small opening that expands during childbirth. It also allows menstrual blood to leave a woman's body.

Your health care provider may perform a Pap test during your health checkup to look for changes to the cells of the cervix, including cervical cancer. Other problems with the cervix include:

  • Cervicitis - inflammation of the cervix. This is usually from an infection.

  • Cervical incompetence - This can happen during pregnancy. The opening of the cervix widens long before the baby is due.

  • Cervical polyps and cysts - abnormal growths on the cervix

Cervical Treatment Options

Cervicitis treatment usually includes antibiotics to eliminate any bacterial infections that may be causing the condition. People under age 25 or who engage in high-risk behaviors may be treated with antibiotics even if bacteria are not detected. (Some bacteria can be hard to detect but may still be present.)

Antibiotics successfully treat cervicitis in most cases.

Quick Facts

  • People who are designated female at birth (DFAB) have a cervix. DFAB people include cisgender women — people who are DFAB and identify as women — and some transgender men and nonbinary individuals. Some intersex individuals have cervixes, too.

  • Most women who have abnormal cervical screening test results do not have cervical cancer.

  • Cervical cancer screening and HPV vaccination can prevent cervical cancer.

  • Nearly all cervical cancer is caused by a virus called HPV (human papillomavirus).

  • There are many types of sexually transmitted human papillomaviruses (HPVs).

  • Most HPV infections, even with high-risk types, go away on their own without causing problems.

  • Most people who are sexually active will have an HPV infection at some point and never know it.

How do you know if you have a problem with your cervix?

Cervicitis is an inflammation of the cervix, the lower, narrow end of the uterus that opens into the vagina. Possible symptoms of cervicitis include bleeding between menstrual periods, pain with intercourse or during a pelvic exam, and abnormal vaginal discharge.

What causes abnormalities in the cervix?

  • Sexually transmitted infections. Most often, the bacterial and viral infections that cause cervicitis are transmitted by sexual contact. Cervicitis can result from common sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including gonorrhea, chlamydia, trichomoniasis and genital herpes.

  • Allergic reactions. An allergy, either to contraceptive spermicides or to latex in condoms, may lead to cervicitis. A reaction to feminine hygiene products, such as douches or feminine deodorants, also can cause cervicitis.

  • Bacterial overgrowth. An overgrowth of some of the bacteria that are normally present in the vagina (bacterial vaginosis) can lead to cervicitis.

What does an abnormal cervical screening test mean?

An abnormal cervical screening test result does not mean that you have cervical cancer. It means that cervical cell changes were found or that cells are infected with HPV. Depending on the results, you may need follow-up testing or treatment. Treatment for cervical cell changes works well.

What are the common conditions and disorders that affect your cervix?

The most concerning cervical conditions involve the human papillomavirus, or HPV. HPV is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) that sometimes leads to cervical cancer.

Conditions that affect your cervix include:

  • Cervical cancer: Malignant cell growths on your cervix, most often resulting from an HPV infection.

  • Cervical dysplasia: A condition that involves abnormal cell growth, most often resulting from an HPV infection. Cervical dysplasia is sometimes called cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN). Cervical dysplasia sometimes--but not always--leads to cervical cancer.

  • Cervicitis: Inflammation of your cervix caused by an STI or skin irritation. Infectious causes include chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes, and trichomoniasis. Reactions to contraceptives can also cause your cervix to become inflamed.

  • Cervical polyps, fibroids and cysts: Harmless fleshy or fluid-filled growths on your cervix. Nabothian cysts are the most common type of cervical cyst.

  • Cervical ectropion: Harmless condition where the glandular cells on the inner portion of your cervix become visible from the outside.

  • Pregnancy conditions involving your cervix include:

  • Cervical insufficiency: A pregnancy complication that occurs when your cervix opens too early. It can lead to miscarriage and premature birth. This condition was once called incompetent cervix.

  • Placenta previa: A condition where the placenta (the organ that supplies nutrients to a fetus) completely or partially covers the opening of your cervix. These pregnancies usually require cesarean deliveries (c-section).

  • Cervical pregnancy: Rare pregnancy complication where an egg implants in the endocervical canal instead of the lining of your uterus.

Risk Factors for Cervical Conditions

Infections are caused by germs such as bacteria and viruses and lead to inflammation of the neck of the womb (cervix). Inflammation of your cervix is called cervicitis. The most common symptom in women with cervicitis is vaginal discharge. Other symptoms can include pain on passing urine, lower tummy (abdominal) pain and bleeding in between periods.

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and Cervical Health

Infections of your cervix are usually caught through having sex. The most common sexually transmitted infections (STIs) which affect the cervix are:

See the individual leaflets for further information on these infections.

Bacterial vaginosis is not an STI. It is caused by an overgrowth of normal germs in your vagina. Some cases of bacterial vaginosis (BV) clear without treatment, whereas others can be treated with a course of antibiotic medication.

Other causes of inflammation of the cervix

Inflammation of the neck of the womb (cervix), called cervicitis, can also be caused by other conditions. These include:

  • Allergies - for, example to condoms or to spermicides.

  • Irritation - for example, from tampons.

  • Radiotherapy - cervicitis can be a side-effect of radiotherapy which is used to treat some cancers.


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