What is ‘cervical’?
Cervical means of the cervix. The cervix is another name for the neck of the womb. It is the opening to the womb from the vagina. It is really a strong muscle and is shut tight expect in labour when it opens to let the baby out.
What is cervical cancer?
Cervical cancer usually occurs when the glandular cells or skin cells in the cervix grow and divide abnormally. These extra cells then grow to form a tumour.
Can I prevent cervical cancer?
As with most cancers, you cannot completely prevent it. However, there are several steps you can take to live more healthily and reduce the risks. We recommend:
- Not smoking. Cigarettes, cigars…all smoking is bad for you, and it damages more than just your lungs.
- Use a condom when you have sex this reduces the risk of contracting HPV (human papilloma virus. Although not all strains of the virus cause cancer (usually strains 16 & 18 are the most likely to cause pre cancerous cell growth), others can cause genital warts which are also unpleasant, so its best to use protection and be safe. Almost all women who develop cervical cancers have come into contact with the HPV virus at some point, it is estimated to cause 99% of cervical cancer cases.
- Having one faithful sexual partner will also reduce your chances of spreading the virus to each other. If you are starting a new relationship and wish to use contraception other than condoms be sure to both get a full sexual health screening before going ahead.
- Girls ages between 12-13 can now receive a vaccine to prevent HPV which leads to many cases of cervical cancer. The vaccine is usually given in year 8 or 9 by an NHS team of nurses which visit their school. It is also available to women above this age through your local doctor. If you haven’t heard about it, ask at your doctors surgery for more details.
- Eat a healthy diet, exercise and value you for you.
How will I know if I do have cervical cancer?
Cervical cancer is not simple to detect. The most common symptom is bleeding from the vagina at any point other than your period. The best defence is knowing your own body. Make sure you know your cycle and when you are likely to get your period so that you know when you are bleeding unusually or at an odd moment. If you bleed unexpectedly or after sex, speak to your doctor.
Other signs can be pain when you pee, or pain in the lower abdominal area. Some women also experience discomfort during sex or a vaginal discharge that smells unpleasant. Again, if this happens speak to your doctor but do not worry as these symptoms are often caused by other less harmful conditions.