Cervical Cancer Prevention Week is an opportunity to raise awareness on the risks of cervical cancer, and help women and people with cervixes learn about how to reduce these risks and prevent the illness. Cervical cancer is cancer affecting the cervix. This is the entrance to the womb, located inside the vagina. It mainly affects sexually active women aged between 30-45, though any woman can suffer from it.
It’s mainly caused by certain types of HPV (or human papillomavirus.) This is a very common sexually transmitted disease—in fact, at least half of all sexually active people will have HPV at some point in their life. This doesn’t mean every woman with HPV will develop cervical cancer, though.
Here are some of the main symptoms of cervical cancer:
✅ Vaginal bleeding that’s unusual for you – including bleeding during or after sex, between your periods or after the menopause or having heavier periods than usual
✅ Changes to your vaginal discharge
✅ Pain during sex
✅ Pain in your lower back, between your hip bones (pelvis), or in your lower tummy
If you have another condition like fibroids or endometriosis, you may get symptoms like these regularly. It is important to be checked by a GP if your symptoms change, get worse, or do not feel normal for you.
What is a cervical cancer screening?
During a cervical screening (or smear test), a small sample of cells is taken from the cervix to test for HPV. The test itself usually takes less than 5 minutes, making the whole appointment around 10 minutes long. The screening is usually carried out by a female nurse or doctor.
Before starting, they should explain what will happen during the test and answer any questions you have.