What is the cervix for?

Cervical Cancer - What Is Important To You

The illness

The uterus consists of the body of the uterus and the cervix. A malignant tumor of the cervix is ​​called in technical jargon Cervical cancer.

Cervical cancer almost always starts from a long-standing infection with certain viruses. These human papillomavirus (HPV) are mainly transmitted through sexual contact. These infections usually heal by themselves and have no consequences. Why it develops into cancer in one woman and not in another is unclear.

Every year around 4,600 women in Germany develop cervical cancer. Almost two-thirds of these are discovered when the cancer is confined to the cervix. After 5 years, more than 90 out of 100 of these women are alive.

Possible signs

Cervical cancer usually doesn't cause any symptoms at the beginning. There are no early and certain signs of this cancer. Initially, there are often vague symptoms such as inexplicable weight loss or abdominal pain.

Some of the signs that may indicate cervical cancer:

  • Unusual bleeding, for example outside of your menstrual period, after intercourse or after the menopause

  • Menstrual periods that last longer than 7 days

  • foul smelling or flesh-colored discharge from the vagina

  • Pain in the lower abdomen or pelvis

  • Painful bowel movements or urination

If you notice such signs, you should see your gynecologist.


A gynecological examination and a cell smear (Pap test) can provide the first clues about the cancer. If cancer is suspected, the experts recommend a magnifying glass examination with targeted tissue removal from the cervix. A laboratory will determine whether the tissue is cancerous. If the suspicion is confirmed, further investigations will follow. In addition to imaging tests, there is often a Operational staging done to find out how far the cancer has spread in the abdomen and if there are any lymph nodes involved. The pelvic lymph nodes are removed for this. This operation usually takes place as a laparoscopy. This means that thin special instruments are inserted into the abdominal cavity through small incisions. This is important in order to find the most favorable treatment in your case.


The treatment is planned precisely for you. If the cancer has not yet spread to distant lymph nodes or organs, more than half of those affected can be cured. Then the professionals recommend surgery or radiation chemotherapy.

The following surgical interventions can be considered:

  • Conization: Cut out part of the cervix. This can be sufficient treatment for very small tumors that are detected early.

  • Trachelectomy: Partial removal of the cervix. The procedure is only considered if the cancer is very small and the lymph nodes are not involved. Pregnancy is still possible.

  • Hysterectomy: Removing the uterus. The experts recommend this procedure when family planning is complete or when the cancer has already penetrated deeper into the tissue. This operation can vary in size depending on the extent of the cancer.

For advanced tumors or affected lymph nodes, the experts recommend radiation chemotherapy. This is then often the better choice than an extensive, stressful operation.

The treatment options have different side effects: For example, the rays particularly damage the mucous membranes in the vagina, bladder and intestines. Pain, bleeding, or infection are possible after an operation. In addition, the loss of the uterus can be psychologically stressful. Removed or irradiated lymph nodes can cause the legs to swell (Lymphedema).

If a cure is unlikely, medication can be used (Chemotherapy and antibody therapy) temporarily suppress cancer growth. The drugs used often damage the kidneys, nerves and hearing. You can find detailed information on the advantages and disadvantages of the various treatments in the patient guidelines (see "Explained in detail" below).

What you can do yourself

  • Cancer is a particular emotional burden. You can therefore receive psychosocial and psycho-oncological support in the event of psychological, sexual or partnership problems.

  • Mothers with cancer often find their dual role as mother and patient stressful. They have to be there for their children and at the same time take care of themselves. Support from a self-help group can be helpful here.

  • Adhesions as a result of surgery or radiation can lead to a dry vagina and pain during intercourse. As a consequence of treatment, you may also lose urine accidentally. Talk to your doctor about such symptoms. There are several ways we can help you.

  • There is evidence that exercise and exercise can improve wellbeing. Domestic and professional chores are easier to cope with. The training should be tailored to your needs. There are special sports groups for people with cancer.

January 2016, published by the German Medical Association and the National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians