This week marks Cervical cancer prevention week!

The cervical screening or smear test is a routine examination used to detect abnormal cells on the cervix. These abnormal cells can sometimes lead to cancer, so these examinations are used as a preventive measure.

Cervical screening does not exclusively screen for cancer but checks the health of cells in the cervix. Most examinations reveal nothing but around 1 in 20 women display some abnormal cells.

This is a very important examination and, along with appropriate follow ups, has been seen to reduce the incidence of cervical cancer by 80%!

Cervical cancer:

Cervical cancer is the 12th most common cancer to affect women in the UK with up to 3000 cases being diagnosed each year.

This condition usually affects women who are sexually active between the ages of 30-45. It rarely affects women below 25 but that is not to mean it doesn’t happen, so you should always be aware of symptoms regardless of age.

Most cases of cervical cancer (up to 99%) are caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV). HPV changes the DNA of normal cells in the cervix which leads to mutation and potentially cancer.

Risk factors:

  • Smoking,
  • Using the contraceptive pill for over five years,
  • Multiple pregnancies,
  • Multiple sexual partners or a partner who has had multiple partners.

Signs and symptoms:

There are numerous symptoms which may indicate this condition, for example;

  • Pelvic pain,
  • Unusual bleeding (bleeding whilst not on your period),
  • Bleeding after sex,
  • Bleeding after the menopause,
  • Unpleasant discharge.

There are also more advanced symptoms;

  • Decreased appetite,
  • Loss of bladder control,
  • Decrease in weight,
  • Constipation,
  • Severe back and or side pain.

These symptoms could be down to many things, not necessarily cancer, but as they are so subtle it is very important to check these with your doctor. As well as this, cervical screening is not offered to those below 25 in the UK, so it is very important to see your GP if you do feel you are suffering from any of these symptoms, especially if you are not yet eligible for cervical screening.

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