Cervical cancer is one of the most common cancers that affect a woman's reproductive organs. Various strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted infection, play a role in causing most cases of cervical cancer.
When exposed to HPV, a woman's immune system typically prevents the virus from doing harm. In a small group of women, however, the virus survives for years before it eventually converts some cells on the surface of the cervix into cancer cells. Cervical cancer occurs most often in women over age 30.
Thanks largely to Pap test screening, the death rate from cervical cancer has decreased greatly over the last 50 years.