Cervical Cancer symptoms are not always obvious

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    Cancer of the cervix is a relatively rare type of cancer and the symptoms are not always obvious. In fact it may not cause any symptoms at all until it has reached an advanced stage.

    The cervix is the lower part of the womb. It is made of muscle tissue and is the entrance to the womb from the vagina.

    If cervical cancer causes symptoms, the most common is abnormal vaginal bleeding, for example between periods or after sexual intercourse.

    Early-stage cancer that is confined to the cervix can usually be successfully treated through surgery and/or radiotherapy. However, if the cancer has spread to the surrounding areas, such as the vagina, bladder or lymph nodes, the outlook is less positive. The good news is that cervical cancer is preventable. A screening test can uncover pre-cancerous cell changes before they have a chance to develop into cancer.

    Cervical Screening Test

    The screening test is called a cervical smear. A nurse or doctor takes a small sample of cells from the surface of your cervix, by putting an instrument called a speculum inside your vagina then scraping the cervix with a small brush. The cells are put into a liquid and sent to a laboratory.

    The smear test picks up pre-cancerous changes. If you have an abnormal result, it does NOT mean you have cervical cancer. But you may need further tests or treatment for an abnormal smear.

    HPV Vaccination

    More than 99% of cases of cervical cancers are thought to be caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV). In recent years a new HPV vaccination has been widely welcomed by the medical community, however the vaccine does not protect against all types of HPV.

    This is why regular cervical screening will continue to play an important role in detecting potentially cancerous cell changes in the cervix.

Useful links

  • Jo's Trust
    Jo's Trust Fighting Cervical Cancer is the only UK charity dedicated to women, their families and friends affected by pre-cancer and cancer of the cervix. Visit Jo's Trust »
  • Cancer Research UK
    This section of CancerHelp UK tells you about cervical cancer, from early symptoms, tests and treatment for abnormal cervical cells, through to treatment for cervical cancer, living with cervical cancer, and current research. Visit Cancer Research UK »
  • NHS Choices
    Essential facts about cervical cancer including links to real life stories and information about the HPV vaccination. Visit NHS Choices »