Cervical Cancer Health Center

Cervical cancer begins in cells on the surface of the cervix. Over time, the cervical cancer can invade more deeply into the cervix and nearby tissues. The cancer cells can spread by breaking away from the original (primary) tumor. They enter blood vessels or lymph vessels, which branch into all the tissues of the body. The cancer cells may attach to other tissues and grow to form new tumors that may damage those tissues. The spread of cancer is called metastasis. See the Staging section for information about cervical cancer that has spread.

Growths on the cervix can be benign or malignant. Benign growths are not cancer. They are not as harmful as malignant growths (cancer).

Benign growths (polyps, cysts, or genital warts):

  • are rarely a threat to life
  • don't invade the tissues around them

Malignant growths (cervical cancer):

  • may sometimes be a threat to life
  • can invade nearby tissues and organs
  • can spread to other parts of the body
Review Date: 
March 22, 2012
Last Updated:
June 30, 2013