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    Types of Cervical Cancer: Essential Features to Know

    Updated 15 September 2021 |
    Published 14 September 2021
    Fact Checked
    Medically reviewed by Dr. Anna Targonskaya, Obstetrician and gynecologist
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    There are several different types of cervical cancer, some of which are more common than others. The type usually depends on where in the cervix the cancer originates and if it spreads. When cervical cancer is detected early on with a Pap smear, it’s much easier to treat and has a better prognosis. Keep reading to learn all about the various types of cervical cancer, plus treatment and prevention to help keep yourself safe.

    Anatomy of the cervix

    The cervix has a few different components. The endocervix is the opening leading into the uterus. Below that is the exocervix, which is just above the vagina. The exocervix is what the OB-GYN sees during an exam. These regions meet at what’s known as the transformation zone, which is the place where most cervical cancers begin. Take a look at the image below to get a better understanding of where these are located within the reproductive system:

    Common types of cervical cancer

    Cervical cells don’t just suddenly become cancer. Rather, it’s a slow process as the cells go through some abnormal changes, known as precancer, which may eventually develop into cancer if left untreated. There are two main common types of cervical cancer, plus a third type that’s a combination of the other two. The types are classified according to how they look in a lab under a microscope.

    Squamous cell carcinoma

    Squamous cell carcinomas account for around 70 percent of cervical cancers, according to the SEER Cancer Statistics Review. Most squamous cell carcinomas begin in the cells near the transformation zone (where the exocervix and endocervix meet).


    Most other cervical cancers are adenocarcinomas, or endocervical adenocarcinomas. These develop from the glandular cells that produce mucus.

    They usually begin as a non-invasive type of cancer called adenocarcinoma in situ (AIS). AIS describes cancerous cells that only appear in one place.

    Adenosquamous carcinoma

    Some cervical cancers affect both squamous cells (in the transformation zone) and glandular cells (the ones that produce mucus) from the start. These are known as adenosquamous carcinomas or mixed carcinomas.

    Rare types of cervical cancer

    Besides these most common types, there are a few rarer types of cervical cancer, including metastatic cervical cancer, which is cancer that has spread significantly (i.e., metastasized) around the body. Other less-common types of cancer that can affect the cervix and other areas of the body include: 

    • Sarcoma
    • Lymphoma
    • Small cell cervical cancer 

    Early diagnosis saves lives

    Many people with cervical cancer don’t notice any signs early on, because symptoms generally appear when the cancer progresses to a later stage. This is why it’s so important to have regular gynecological checkups that look for changes in the cervix that could develop into cancer. These checkups can detect cervical cancer while it’s still at a very early stage, when there’s a better prognosis for recovery.

    These are the symptoms of cervical ca