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Key Phone Numbers

  • Medical Center Operator

  • 201-833-3000

  • Physician Referral Service

  • 877-HOLY-NAME (465-9626)

  • Patient Information

  • 201-833-3300

  • Foundation (Donations)

  • 201-833-3187

  • Human Resources

  • 201-833-7040

  • Medical Staff Office

  • 201-833-3352

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Gynecologic Oncology

Cervical Cancer


Cancer in the cervix, which connects the uterus and the vagina, is the only gynecological cancer that can be detected with regular screening, known as a Pap test. It is typically a slow-growing cancer and when found early is highly treatable with a good quality of life.

Cervical cancer usually occurs in women younger than 50 but rarely develops in women under 20. It can affect any woman who is or has been sexually active.

About 12,000 women are diagnosed annually with the disease.


Usually, there are no symptoms of early cervical cancer, but it can cause vaginal bleeding, pelvic pain, unusual vaginal discharge or pain during intercourse.


Infection with the human papillomavirus is almost always the cause of cervical cancer.

Risk Factors

  • Infected with the human papillomavirus

  • Multiple sexual partners

  • Cigarette smoking

  • Having a weakened immune system

Tests and Diagnoses

A Pap test, when cells of the cervix are collected and examined under a microscope, can detect abnormal cells that may indicate a precancerous condition or cancer. An abnormal Pap may require further testing, including a colposcopy, when a lighted magnifying instrument called a colposcope is used to help the physician see the surface of the cervix and surrounding tissue more clearly. A biopsy may also be necessary.


  • Surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiation can be used to treat cervical cancer, depending on how far the disease has advanced.

  • A hysterectomy, removing the uterus and cervix, or radical hysterectomy, removing the uterus, cervix and surrounding tissue, may be performed for early stage cancers.

  • For more advanced stages of the disease or for women with high risk conditions following surgery, two types of radiation may be used. Radiation from outside the body, known as external beam radiation therapy, is usually given for six weeks. Brachytherapy involves placing radioactive material in a cylinder in the vagina or uterus.

  • Chemotherapy for cervical cancer is often combined with radiation to make the radiation work more effectively. It is also prescribed when the cancer has spread to other organs and tissues or if it has recurred.

Precancerous Conditions

To treat precancers or dysplasia – a precancerous condition involving the growth of abnormal cells on the lining of the cervix or at the opening between the uterus and vagina – liquid nitrogen may be used to freeze abnormal cells, a procedure known as cryosurgery. Patients may experience a watery brown discharge for several weeks after the procedure. Laser surgery may also be performed to burn off the abnormal cells.

For severe dysplasia, also known as CIN 3, a conization to remove a cone-shaped piece of tissue, may be performed. This can be done several ways, with a surgical or laser knife or a thin heated wire, known as the loop electrosurgical (LEEP) procedure. A cone biopsy may be used for diagnosis or as treatment for women with early stage disease who want to preserve their fertility.


Routine Pap tests catch abnormal cells before they develop into cancer, so consistent screenings are the best way to prevent cervical cancer. Over the last 50 years, the incidence of cervical cancer has dropped 70 percent due to Pap tests.

Vaccines to prevent certain high-risk types of human papillomavirus are also helping to reduce the number of cervical cancer cases.