Welcome to the Inova Saville Cancer Screening and Prevention Center

Cervical cancer starts in the lining of the cervix when cells in the body begin to grow out of control. The cervix, which connects the body of the uterus to the birth canal, is made of two parts and is covered with two types of cells:

  • The endocervix is the opening of the cervix and is covered with glandular cells.
  • The exocervix is the outer part of the cervix and is covered in squamous cells.

Importance of Cervical Cancer Screening

Up to 90% of all cervical cancers are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV spreads through sexual contact (anal, oral or vaginal). Most of us will get HPV at some point in our lives, but most often, our bodies fight off the infection. The HPV vaccine can help prevent HPV infection by protecting you against HPV. Cervical cancer symptoms are often not noticeable until the cancer becomes larger and grows into nearby tissue. When this happens, the most common symptoms are:

  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding
  • Heavier or longer-than-usual periods
  • Unusual discharge from the vagina
  • Problems urinating or having a bowel movement
  • Pain in the pelvic area
  • Pain during sex
  • Swelling in the legs
  • Blood in the urine

Screening: What to Expect

Cervical cancer is the only type of gynecologic cancer for which screening can be performed. Finding cervical cancer often starts with an abnormal Pap test or HPV test result. These screenings may lead to your provider recommending further testing, which can diagnose cervical cancer or a pre-cancerous condition. The tests used include colposcopy (with biopsy), endocervical scraping and cone biopsies.

One of the best things you can do to lower your risk of cancer is to adopt a healthy lifestyle. Studies show that even people with a hereditary risk of developing cancer can reduce their risk by developing a healthy lifestyle. Here are some things we recommend:

  • Quit smoking.
  • Adopt a low-fat diet rich in fruits and vegetables.
  • Exercise for 30 minutes each day.

Early detection of HPV is key to preventing cervical cancer. Talk with your doctor about steps you can take to prevent HPV.

In addition to surgery, your treatment may include chemotherapy, targeted therapy, hormone therapy and immunotherapy, either separately or in combination. If the cancer is only on the surface of your cervix, your doctor can remove or destroy the cancerous cells with procedures like a loop electrosurgical excision procedure (better known as LEEP) or cold knife conization.

If cancerous cells have passed through the surface of your cervix to its underlying layers, surgery may be required. If the disease has invaded deeper layers of your cervix but hasn’t spread to other parts of your body, you might need to have an operation to take out the tumor.