Cervical cancer is the growth of abnormal cells in the lining of the cervix.2
The cervix is part of the female reproductive system, which also includes the fallopian tubes, uterus (womb), ovaries, vagina (birth canal) and vulva (external genitals). 1
The cervix has an outer surface that opens into the vagina and an inner surface that lines the cervical canal. These two surfaces are covered by two types of cells:
- Squamous cells – flat, thin cells that cover the outer surface of the cervix (ectocervix). Cancer of the squamous cells is called squamous cell carcinoma.
- Glandular cells – column-shaped cells that cover the inner surface of the cervix (cervical canal or endocervix). Cancer of the glandular cells is called adenocarcinoma.
The most common cervical cancer is squamous cell carcinoma, accounting for 80-85% of cases. Adenocarcinoma is less common and more difficult to diagnose because it starts higher in the cervix.2