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Czech Gynaecological and Obstetrical Society | Ministry of Health | Institute of Biostatistics and Analyses, Masaryk University
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Other sources of information
Cervical cytology (in Czech)www.cipek.cz
Cervical cytology
Cancer Screening in the European Unionec.europa.eu
Cancer Screening in the European Union (2017)
[ 10,6 MB]
SVOD - Epidemiology of malignant tumours in the Czech Republicwww.svod.cz
Epidemiology of malignant tumours
in the Czech Republic
NCI Bethesda System
HPV College


Cervical cancer: Basic terms

Benign tumour (also benign neoplasm) – a tumour that lacks all three of the malignant properties of a cancer. Thus, by definition, a benign tumour does not grow in an unlimited, aggressive manner, does not invade surrounding tissues, and does not metastasize. Many benign tumours do not need to be treated at all. If a benign tumour is causing symptoms, presents a health risk, or causes a cosmetic concern for the patient, surgery is usually the most effective approach. See also malignant tumour.

Biopsy – a medical test involving the removal of cells (for cytological examination) or tissues (for histological examination) in order to prove or disprove a suspicion of malignant tumour. See also tumour morphology.

Cancer – general term denoting more than 100 diseases characterized by an uncontrolled cell growth. See also malignant tumour.

Carcinoma – a malignant tumour that arises from epithelium.

Carcinoma in situ (CIS) – an early form of carcinoma defined by the absence of invasion of surrounding tissues. Cancerous cells have not yet penetrated the so-called “basement membrane”, which means they could not get into lymph vessels or blood vessels and form metastases elsewhere in the body.

Cervical cancer (sometimes referred to as cervical carcinoma) – you can find more details in our article Cervical cancer.

Cervical conization (also called conization or cone biopsy) – a surgery to remove a cone-shaped piece of tissue from the cervix and cervical canal. Conization may be used to diagnose or treat a cervical condition.

Location of cervix uteriCervix (of uterus) (also called neck of uterus, neck of womb or cervix uteri) – the lower, narrow portion of the uterus where it joins with the top end of the vagina. It is cylindrical or conical in shape and protrudes through the upper anterior vaginal wall. Approximately half its length is visible with appropriate medical equipment during a gynaecological examination; the remainder lies above the vagina beyond view.

Chemoradiotherapy – the combination of simultaneous chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Some chemotherapeutic drugs enhance the effectiveness of radiation, and therefore are administered simultaneously with radiation therapy.

Chemotherapy – in its most general sense, this term refers to treatment of disease by chemicals that kill cells, specifically those of micro-organisms or cancer. In popular usage, it usually refers to antineoplastic drugs used to treat cancer or the combination of these drugs into a cytotoxic standardized treatment regimen. Anticancer chemotherapeutic drugs work by impairing mitosis (cell division), effectively targeting fast-dividing cells. As these drugs cause damage to cells, they are termed cytotoxic. Most of these drugs affect all growing and dividing cells – not only cancerous cells, but also cells in healthy tissues. This is why anticancer chemotherapy has quite a lot of side effects, such as hair loss, nausea and vomiting, diarrhoea etc. With respect to the side effects, chemotherapy is administered in several cycles; breaks in therapy allow the body to recover.

Colposcopy – examination of the cervix through a magnifying device – colposcope – to detect abnormal cells. From the patient’s point of view, the colposcopic examination is part of a routine gynaecological examination.

Cytopathology (in this context, abbreviated form of cytopathological examination or cytological examination) – a branch of pathology that studies and diagnoses diseases on the cellular level (compare with histology or histological examination). Cytopathology is frequently, less precisely, called cytology, which means "the study of cells." A common application of cytopathology is the Pap smear, used as a screening tool, to detect precancerous lesions and prevent cervical cancer. In a cytopahological examination, it is not possible to establish the relation between the tumour and surrounding tissue: for example, if a carcinoma is diagnosed, it cannot be distinguished if it is carcinoma in situ or not.

Epithelium – the covering of internal and external surfaces of the body, including the lining of vessels and other small cavities.

Histology (in this context, abbreviated form of histological examination) – a branch of pathology studying compact samples of tissues (compare with cytopathology) on microscopic level. A histological examination makes it possible to establish whether the sample has characteristics of malignant tumour, and whether it is carcinoma in situ, for example.

HPV – human papilloma virus; you can find more details in our article Human papilloma virus (HPV).

Laparoscopic examination – examination of the abdominal cavity using a laparoscope (a fibreoptic device consisting of a flexible tube). A laparoscope is often used to perform abdominal surgery – the so-called laparoscopic surgery or laparoscopy).

Malignant tumour (also malignant neoplasm) – a group of cells displaying uncontrolled growth (division beyond the normal limits), invasion (intrusion on and destruction of adjacent tissues), and sometimes metastasis (spread to other locations in the body via lymph or blood). Malignant tumour is synonymous with cancer. See also benign tumour.

Metastasis (pl. metastases) – the spread of cancer from one part of the body to another. A tumour formed by cells that have spread is called a “metastatic tumour” or a “metastasis.” The metastatic tumour contains cells that are like those in the original (primary) tumour.

Metastasize – to create metastases.

Palliative treatment – a treatment that is designed to relieve symptoms, and improve the quality of life, rather than cure an illness. It can be used at any stage of an illness if there are troubling symptoms, such as pain or sickness. In advanced cancer, palliative treatment may help someone to live longer and to live comfortably, even if they cannot be cured. Palliative treatment can also mean using medicines to reduce or control the side effects of cancer treatments.

Pap smear (also Pap test or Papanicolau test) – a procedure in which cells are scraped from the cervix for cytological examination under a microscope. It is used to detect cancer and changes that may lead to cancer. A Pap smear can also show noncancerous conditions, such as infection or inflammation.

Pathologist – a doctor who diagnoses and characterizes diseases in living patients by examining biopsies or bodily fluids. The vast majority of cancer diagnoses are made or confirmed by a pathologist. Pathologists may also conduct autopsies to investigate causes of death.

Precancerous lesion (also squamous intraepithelial lesion or SIL) a general term for the abnormal growth of squamous cells on the surface of the cervix. (The word “lesion” refers to an area of abnormal tissue; “intraepithelial” means that the abnormal cells are present only in the surface layer of the cervix.) The changes in the cells are described as low grade or high grade, depending on how much of the cervix is affected and how abnormal the cells are. These precancerous changes are limited to the epithelial layer and are not able to metastasize yet. Two types of SIL are distinguished:

  • Low-grade SIL refers to early changes in the size, shape, and number of cells that form the surface of the cervix. Some low-grade lesions go away on their own. However, with time, others may grow larger or become more abnormal, forming a high-grade lesion. Precancerous low-grade lesions also may be called mild dysplasia or cervical intraepithelial neoplasia 1 (CIN 1). Such early changes in the cervix most often occur in women between the ages of 25 and 35 but can appear in other age groups as well.
  • High-grade SIL means there are a large number of precancerous cells; they look very different from normal cells. Like low-grade SIL, these precancerous changes involve only cells on the surface of the cervix. The cells will not become cancerous and invade deeper layers of the cervix for many months, perhaps years. High-grade lesions also may be called moderate or severe dysplasia, CIN 2 or 3, or carcinoma in situ. They develop most often in women between the ages of 30 and 40 but can occur at other ages as well.
  • Note: If abnormal cells spread deeper into the cervix or to other tissues or organs, the disease is then called cervical cancer, or invasive cervical cancer.

Radiation therapy (also radiotherapy) – the medical use of ionizing radiation as part of cancer treatment to control malignant cells. There are two main types of radiotherapy, depending on the position of the radiation source: external beam radiotherapy, in which the radiation source is located outside the body, and brachytherapy, where a sealed radioactive source is placed precisely in the area under treatment (i.e., in body cavities or in tissues).

Recurrence – a cancer that has recurred (come back), usually after a period of time during which the cancer could not be detected. The cancer may come back to the same place as the original (primary) tumour or to another place in the body. See also relapse.

Relapse – the return of signs and symptoms of cancer after a period of improvement. This term mainly refers to diseases which cannot be completely cured; any treatment can only relieve their symptoms. See also recurrence.

Remission – a decrease in or disappearance of signs and symptoms of cancer. In partial remission, some, but not all, signs and symptoms of cancer have disappeared. In complete remission, all signs and symptoms of cancer have disappeared, although cancer still may be in the body. A remission can be followed by a relapse; if there is no relapse after a long time (five years after the end of cancer treatment, for example), the disease is considered to have been cured.

Screening – examination of people with no symptoms, to detect unsuspected disease. You can find more information in our article Cervical screening.

Tumour morphology – determination of type and other characteristics of tumour. A malignant tumour can be suspected from the results of various examinations, but the final diagnosis can only be established on the basis of morphological examination of the suspected tissue. The morphological examination is performed by a pathologist, who examines a tumour removed during an operation, or its sample acquired by the biopsy.

Adapted from www.linkos.cz, official website of the Czech Society for Oncology.


Last updated on 9 January 2015