Cervical cancer is a cancer that's found anywhere in the cervix, which is the opening between the vagina and the uterus. Researchers found that 99.7% of cervical cancers are caused by an infection from certain 'high risk' types of human papillomavirus - HPV - which can cause changes to cervical cells.
It can often be prevented by attending cervical screening, which aims to find and treat changes to cells BEFORE they turn into cancer. As the human papillomavirus usually has no symptoms it is extremely important to attend the screening.
Symptoms and Causes
Although certain kinds of HPV are the main cause of cervical cancer, please know that contracting HPV is generally extremely common and these viruses are usually cleared up by our immune system so they don't cause cancer.
There are no symptoms associated with the abnormal cells, which are detected during the screening (so please don't forget to get screened!). However, there are symptoms associated with cervical cancer that has developed such as...
+ Bleeding during or after sex
+ Post-menopausal bleeding that is not related to hormone replacement therapy
+ Unusual vaginal discharge
+ Discomfort or pain during sex
+ Lower back pain
Early detection of any early changes in the cervix and HPV vaccine (in the UK given to children aged 12 and 13) help prevent 75% of cervical cancers.
It is important to remember that anyone with a cervix can get cervical cancer. However, you might be more likely to get cervical cancer if you...
+ Are under 45 – cervical cancer is more common in younger people
+ Have a weakened immune system (for example due to HIV or AIDS)
+ Have given birth to multiple children or had children at an early age (under 17 years old)
+ Have a mother who took the hormonal medicine diethylstilbestrol (DES) while pregnant with you
+ Have had vaginal, vulva, kidney or bladder cancer in the past.
NHS advises that women and people with a cervix between the ages of 25 and 64 should go for regular cervical screening. You will get a letter inviting you for a screening. You should be invited up to 6 months before you turn 25 for your first screening and then every 3 years when you're 25 to 49 and every 5 years when you're 50 to 64 you should have your screening and then only if 1 of your last 3 tests was abnormal once you're 65+.
If you have missed your last cervical screening do not wait for a letter and book an appointment with your GP as soon as possible.
Have you been diagnosed with cervical
or any other kind of cancer?
Treatments for cervical cancer include surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy as well as targeted medicines to treat the cancer. Your specialist care team will explain and discuss every step of the process.
Please remember that you are not alone and there is always help available.
Apart from your team of specialists there are also many charities and support groups dedicated to helping you navigate through your cancer journey. We as Sam's Diamonds provide social media as well as in person support, information, meet-ups and much more! Click here to become a Diamond.
“Causes of cervical cancer.” NHS, https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/cervical-cancer/causes/.
“Cervical Cancer Symptoms.” Cancer Research UK, https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/cervical-cancer/symptoms.
“HPV and Cervical Cancer: A Review of Epidemiology and Screening Uptake in the UK.” NCBI, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9960303/.
“When you'll be invited for cervical screening.” NHS, https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/cervical-screening/when-youll-be-invited/.