What is cervical cancer?
Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that is found anywhere in the cervix.
The cervix is the opening between the vagina and the womb.
Nearly all cervical cancers are caused by an infection from certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV).
Cervical cancer is most common in women in their early 30’s.
Risk factors of cervical cancer
Age – if you’re under 45, you have an increased risk. Cervical cancer is more common in younger people.
Weakened immune system – If you have HIV or AIDS.
Childbirth – you have given birth to multiple children or had children at an early age (under 17 years old).
Previous cancer – you’ve had vaginal, vulval, kidney or bladder cancer in the past.
Contraceptive Pill – taking the contraceptive pill may increase your chances of getting cervical cancer.
Smoking – may increase your chances of getting cervical cancer.
How can you reduce your risk of cervical cancer?
Cervical screening – attend your cervical screening when invited to do so (screening is offered to all people with a cervix between the age of 25 and 64, you must be registered with a GP).
HPV Vaccine – all children aged 12 to 13 are offered the HPV vaccine, it helps protect against all cancers caused by HPV.
Condoms – using condoms lowers your chance of getting HPV.
Quit Smoking – quitting smoking can reduce your risk of getting cancer.
Get more active – maintain regular physical exercise – exercise guidelines.
Manage your Alcohol consumption – keep an eye on how much alcohol you drink, stay within the recommended units.
Common symptoms of cervical cancer
The 3 main symptoms of cervical cancer are:
Unusual vaginal bleeding – including bleeding during or after sex, between periods or after the menopause.
Pain – Pain in your lower back, between your hip bones (pelvis), or in your tummy.
Discharge - Changes to your vaginal discharge. Or pain during sex.
Know the symptoms
Diagnosing gynaecological cancers (such as cervical and ovarian cancer) early significantly improves chances of successful treatment. Liza Benson, a lead Practice Nurse, talks about the ABCD of cervical and ovarian cancer symptoms and key signs to look out for.
Very early stage cervical cancer may not cause any symptoms, so it’s important that you attend regular cervical screening (or smear test) appointments. There is more information about what is involved during a cervical screening appointment below in the ‘cancer screening’ section.
Testing for cervical cancer
Cervical Screening – All women and people with a cervix aged 25 to 64 are invited to book a cervical screening. You must be registered with a GP. Screening is one of the most effective ways to find early signs of cancer, so it’s important that you attend as soon as it’s possible.
GP appointment – If you are concerned, make an appointment with your GP, they’ll ask about your symptoms. They may also carry out an examination or tests.
Hospital referral – If your symptoms suggest you require further investigation, your GP can refer you to your local hospital for further tests. Further test information.