The cervix forms part of the reproductive system. It is the lower part of the womb and is often referred to as the neck of the womb. Cancer of the cervix is cancer of the cells lining your cervix. At first abnormal or precancerous changes develop which can then lead to cancer itself.
SYMPTOMS OF CERVICAL CANCER
Very early stage cervical cancer may have no symptoms. Some signs of cervical cancer may include:
• Abnormal vaginal bleeding between periods, after sex or after the menopause
• Blood stained vaginal discharge that may have a foul odour
• Discomfort or pain in your pelvic area
CAUSES OF CERVICAL CANCER
Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
• There is strong evidence that HPV is linked to cervical cancer. HPV is a very common virus that is passed on during sex. Most women will get this infection in their lifetime and it usually clears up by itself.
• Persistent HPV infections can cause changes to the cervix. If these changes are left untreated they can lead to cancer of the cervix.
• There is a HPV vaccine licensed for girls and women aged 9-26 years. In Ireland, it is available free to girls in secondary school as part of the national cervical vaccination programme.
Not Having Screening
• Not having regular smear tests is one of the biggest risks of developing cervical cancer
• Smoking increases the risk of developing changes to the cells of the cervix
• Smoking can also prevent HPV from clearing up
PREVENTION OF CERVICAL CANCER THROUGH CERVICAL SCREENING
• Cervical screening involves a smear test that your GP or practice nurse can carry out.
• It takes less than 5 minutes and although it can be uncomfortable, it is not painful.
• Every woman between the age 25 and 60 should have a regular smear tests whether they are single or married, have sex with men or women, have the HPV vaccine, have stopped having babies or are menopausal.
• The best time to have a smear test is 10-14 days after the first day of your period.
Cervical Check – The National Screening Programme
This is a screening programme organised and managed by the National Cancer Screening Service. With this programme, regular free smear tests are provided to women aged 25 to 60 years of age. Find out more on www.cervicalcheck.ie or Freephone 1800 45 45 55.
Information received from the Irish Cancer Society (www.cancer.ie)