22 January 2019
The 21 – 27 of January brings us Cervical Cancer Prevention week. In this article we discuss the topic of cervical cancer, symptoms to look out for and details about smear tests. Know your facts, it could save your life.
What is cervical cancer?
Cervical cancer forms in the cells that line the cervix. The cervix is the lower, narrow part of the womb, joining to the top end of the vagina. Almost all cases of cervical cancer are caused by a common virus called human papillomavirus (HPV). Although most people get HPV it usually isn’t a problem and your body can naturally fight it. However, there are lots of different types of HPV and some can make the cells in your cervix go wrong, causing cervical cancer. Vaccines against HPV are available for young women aged 12-17, protecting against 70% of all cervical cancers.
What are the symptoms I need to look out for?
The most common symptoms of cervical cancer are:
- Abnormal bleeding
- Post-menopausal bleeding – if you are not on HRT
- Unusual vaginal discharge
- Discomfort or pain during sex
- Lower back pain
Although cervical cancer may not have symptoms in its early stages, regular smear tests can detect abnormal results and further prevent development of the disease.
It’s important to note, even if you received the HPV vaccination when you were younger, you still need to regularly attend your smear tests.
What is a smear test?
A smear test looks for changes to the cells of your cervix. It is not a test for cancer, but it highlights changes before they potentially develop into cancer. If the cells show changes, you may have a test for HPV. When you have a smear test, your nurse needs to see your cervix. They use a speculum made of plastic to gently open your vagina and use a small rush to take cells from your cervix.
In the UK screening starts at the age of 25 and ends at 64.
For many, the idea of a smear test is lots worse than the procedure itself. Remember a moment of being uncomfortable for a lifesaving test.
For any more information or for support from Jo’s Cervical Cancer Charity please visit www.jostrust.org.uk
We offer private smear tests here at your local private hospital Spire Harpenden. To book now please call: 01582 714 420.
Information taken from Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust website.