Cancer type:

Cervical Cancer

  • Women of any age can get cervical cancer
  • Cervical cancer is the most common cancer for women aged 35
  • 3,224 women get diagnosed with cervical cancer in the UK every year
  • About 63% of women will survive for ten years or more
  • Cancer of the cervix often has no symptoms in its early stages
  • Because of this the NHS offer a free screening test for women from the age of 25
  • This is also called a smear test, and it is recommended to have one every three years
  • Regular smear testing can reduce your risk of getting cervical cancer by 91%
  • The most common symptom is unusual vaginal bleeding after sex
  • Also common is bleeding in between periods or after the menopause
  • Risk factors include giving birth to many children and having a high number of sexual partners
  • Lifestyle choices such as little exercise, being overweight and drinking heavily also increase your risks
  • A key risk factor includes not attending regular screening every three years to catch it early
  • Also if possible rule out the HPV virus by having the cervical cancer vaccination at 12/13
  • The two viruses called HPV 16 and 18 are responsible for 70% of cervical cancer
  • Practice safer sex using condoms
  • Avoid having children at a younger age
  • Avoid having a higher number of sexual partners
  • Long term use of the contraceptive pill can slightly increase the risk of developing cervical cancer
  • Avoid smoking, and if you are a smoker talk to your pharmacist about giving up
  • Alcohol can increase your risks also so try to drink sensibly and avoid binge-drinking
  • Be physically active and mentally alert doing something you enjoy
  • Maintain a reasonable weight for your body type, and lose some weight if you are too heavy
  • Eat a healthy diet and learn to reduce stress in your life with hobbies, socialising or meditation
  • Some doctors are confident 100% of cases are preventable with screening and management of the risk factors
  • You can reduce your risk very significantly by having regular smear tests
  • If cervical cancer is suspected, you'll be referred to a gynaecologist
  • If you've had an abnormal cervical screening test result your gynaecologist will usually carry out a colposcopy
  • A Colposcopy is an examination to look for abnormalities in your cervix
  • A small microscope with a light source at the end (colposcope) is passed up to the cervix
  • As well as examining your cervix, your gynaecologist may remove a small tissue sample
  • This is called a biopsy, and the sample can be checked under a microscope for cancer cells
  • Sometimes a minor operation called a cone biopsy may also be required
  • A cone biopsy is done in hospital, usually under a local anaesthetic
  • You may experience vaginal bleeding for up to four weeks afterwards, and you may experience period-like pains
  • If positive you'll probably need to have some further tests to assess how widespread the cancer is
  • An MDT (multidisciplinary team) of specialists will work together for the best individual treatment and care
  • Treatment for cervical cancer depends on how far the cancer has spread, also called the stage
  • Your cancer team will recommend what the best treatment options are, but the final decision is yours
  • Caught early enough, surgery is used to remove some or all of the womb, sometimes combined with radiotherapy
  • If more advanced, then radiotherapy and/or chemotherapy are used, sometimes together with surgery
  • If diagnosed early enough there is a good chance of a complete cure for cervical cancer
  • Sometimes the results show no cervical cancer, but reveal biological changes potentially cancerous in the future
  • A radical trachelectomy is usually only suitable if cervical cancer is diagnosed at a very early stage
  • A hysterectomy is usually recommended for early cervical cancer, often followed by a course of radiotherapy
  • A pelvic exenteration is a major operation that's usually only recommended when cervical cancer returns
  • If it isn't curable, it's still often possible to slow its progression and relieve any associated symptoms
  • These are symptoms like pain and vaginal bleeding, and this is called palliative care
Download Cervical Cancer Factsheet


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