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Neoplasm is a term generally used to refer to an abnormal growth, or tumor, and a cervical neoplasm is an abnormal growth occurring in the cervix. The cervix forms the entrance to the womb and is located at the upper end of the vagina. A number of different types of neoplasm may develop in the cervix, most of which are benign, or non-cancerous, but some have the potential to develop into cancer. Neoplastic cells may be detected during what is called a Pap, or smear, test. Only a small proportion of cases of cervical neoplasm are found to be cancer.
Cells in the cervix may go through a number of abnormal pre-cancerous changes. When abnormal cells are found, the condition is graded according to the thickness of the surface of the cervix which is involved. These grades are known as cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN) I, II and III. In CIN I, abnormal cells are found in the upper third of the surface of the cervix, while in CIN II, they take up two thirds of the thickness; CIN III refers to abnormal cells being found throughout the surface. CIN III is called carcinoma in situ, or stage 0 cancer but all the neoplastic cells are contained inside the cervical surface and, if left untreated, it would usually take several years to develop into invasive cancer.
Sometimes a cervical neoplasm is found to be a cancerous, or malignant, tumor. There are two main types of malignancy associated with the cervix and these are squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma. Squamous cell carcinoma is the most common and it arises from cells in the surface of the cervix. Adenocarcinoma is more difficult to detect in screening tests because this type of cervical neoplasm develops from cells inside the cervical canal that leads into the womb. Stage I squamous cell carcinoma is the next stage of progression from untreated CIN III.
In stage I squamous cell carcinoma, the cancer has spread beyond the cervical surface to invade deeper tissues. There are four possible stages in all, with stage IV describing advanced cancer which has spread throughout the body. While CIN may be successfully treated by removal of abnormal cells, the treatment and outlook of a cancerous cervical neoplasm varies according to the stage. Surgery is generally carried out, with radiotherapy and chemotherapy used for some stages. In stage I, more than 90 percent of women are expected to survive for five years after treatment.