The cervix is the outlet of the womb situated back up inside the vagina. Cancer of the cervix is usually found in patients who have infection of the cervix with human papilloma virus (HPV). The HPV infection causes the cervical cells to become dysplastic (a form of degeneration that can lead to malignancy). Patients with cervical dysplasia are in danger of developing cervical cancer. Abnormal (dysplastic) cervical cells are detected by pap smears. Patients with abnormal pap smears should have cervical biopsy to detect dysplasia or malignancy.
The commonest early symptom of cervical cancer is abnormal vaginal bleeding, that is spotting between periods.
Another symptom is bleeding when the cervix is touched, such as during intercourse (post-coital bleeding) or insertion of a diaphragm.
A third symptom of cervical cancer is blood-tinged vaginal discharge.