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Fast facts on cervical cancer

No one wants to think about contracting a disease or facing a life-threatening illness like cancer. But knowing about risk factors and getting educated about signs and symptoms can make a difference in early detection and treatment. With most cancers, the earlier the diagnosis, the best chance for survival.

Cervical cancer affects thousands of women in North America. It begins in the cells of the cervix, essentially the gateway between the vagina and the uterus in the female reproductive system. Before cancer develops, the Canadian Cancer Society says that abnormal cells in the cervix will develop. But there's more to know. Here are some facts about cervical cancer.

* Every 47 minutes, another woman in the United States is diagnosed with cervical cancer.

* The disease is caused by a sexually transmitted virus called HPV.

* There are rarely any symptoms of cervical cancer early on that can be detected by the average woman. That makes routine examination and testing by a doctor important.

* Cervical cancer is detected through a PAP test, where cells from the cervix are collected in the doctor's office and then examined in a lab.

* Most women diagnosed with cervical cancer are under the age of 50.

* All women who have been sexually active are at risk for cervical cancer.