Cervical cancer is an uncommon form of cancer that affects the entrance to a woman’s uterus (the cervix). Cervical cancer accounts for around 2% of all cancers diagnosed in women. Cervical cancer is the most common cancer in women aged under 35, but is most common in women in their thirties and forties.
Causes of Cervical Cancer
Around 70% of all cervical cancers are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), a common virus spread during sex. There are many different types of HPV, but only two strains are considered likely to cause cervical cancer. Vaccination is now available to protect young boys and girls from contracting the HPV strains most likely to cause cervical cancer.
Other lifestyle factors may increase your risk of developing cervical cancer, such as:
● other sexually transmitted infections
● a weakened immune system
● the contraceptive pill
Symptoms of Cervical Cancer
In many cases, there are no symptoms during the early stages of cervical cancer. For those who do experience symptoms, the most common is vaginal bleeding when you are not on your period, for example:
● after or during sex
● between periods
● after the menopause
Other possible symptoms include:
● a foul smelling vaginal discharge
● painful intercourse
If you notice any of the above symptoms, you should contact your healthcare provider for advice. These symptoms are common to a number of conditions, and it’s unlikely that you will have cancer. Vaginal bleeding is a symptom that should always be investigated by your healthcare provider.
Screening for Cervical Cancer
The number of women diagnosed with cervical cancer each year is decreasing, and this is thanks to regular screening that encourages prevention as well as early detection of this condition. Pap smear tests are recommended for all women aged between 21 and 65, and should be performed every three years.
Cervical cancer is one of the few cancers that can be prevented because abnormal cells can be identified before they develop into cancer. During a pap smear, a speculum is inserted into the vagina, and the cervix is scraped with a small brush to collect a small sample of cells. These cells are then sent off to a lab and examined under a microscope.
If abnormal cells are discovered, you will be asked to return for treatment. Abnormal cells are not cancerous, but they have the potential to develop into cancer in the future, so your healthcare provider will recommend removing these cells. A few months after the removal of these cells you will be asked to return for another pap smear to check all of the abnormal cells have gone.
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Health & Parenting Ltd disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information. All contents copyright © Health & Parenting Ltd 2014. All rights reserved.