Cervical Cancer Prevention Week

18-24th January 2021

18-24th January is Cervical Cancer Prevention Week. We’re sharing our knowledge and advice on how to spot the signs and symptoms of cervical cancer. The pandemic means additional challenges to attending a screening and accessing the HPV vaccine; many people are unsure whether they should access the NHS. The NHS is advising that Cervical Screens are still taking places and you should contact your GP for details.

What is cervical cancer?

This type of cancer starts in the cells in the cervix. The cervix joins the top of the vagina to the lower part of the womb. Cervical cancer is when abnormal cells in the lining of the cervix grow in an uncontrolled way and eventually form a growth (tumour). If this isn’t caught early, cancer cells gradually grow into the surrounding tissues and may spread.

How common is cervical cancer, and who gets it?

Around 3,200 people are diagnosed with cervical cancer every year in the UK. That’s more than eight cases each day. It mainly affects women aged 30-45. Trans men can also develop cervical cancer if they haven’t had an operation to remove their womb and cervix.

What causes cervical cancer?

The leading cause of cervical cancer is a long-lasting infection of certain types of the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). HPV is a common virus, and in most cases, your immune system clears the infection without any problems.

How can you reduce your risk of cervical cancer?

The best way to protect yourself is by attending cervical screening (previously called the ‘smear test’). A small sample is taken from the cervix and checked under a microscope for abnormalities. The NHS invites all women from 25-64 to attend a screening. You can find out more about the screening here.

Try not to put off cervical screening. It’s one of the best ways to protect yourself from cervical cancer.

Other ways to protect yourself, include:

– Knowing the symptoms of cervical cancer and seeking medical advice
– Ensure you encourage loved ones to take up the HPV vaccination offered to girls aged 11-18.

What are the signs and symptoms of cervical cancer?

It’s important to bear in mind that cervical cancer may not cause any symptoms, so it’s essential to reduce your risk of cervical cancer by attending your screening.

The most common cervical cancer symptoms, are:

– Vaginal bleeding that is unusual for you, including after the menopause, after sex or between regular periods
– Changes to vaginal discharge
– Pain during sex
– Unexplained pain in your lower back or between your hip bones (pelvis)

These symptoms may happen for other reasons than cervical cancer. Still, it’s crucial to tell your GP about any changes so they can help put your mind at ease and ensure you get the care you need.

If cervical cancer becomes more advanced or spreads to other parts of your body, it can cause other symptoms, including:

– Severe pain in your side or back
– Unexplained weight loss
– Loss of appetite
– Losing control of your bladder or bowels
– Blood in your wee or poo
– Swelling in your legs
– Heavy vaginal bleeding, for example, soaking through sanitary pads every hour

For more information, please visit the NHS website

If you are going through a worrying time with a diagnosis, treatment or recovery and you would find some support helpful, please don’t hesitate to contact us.