Cervical Cancer

Facts and faq’s

  Q. What is cervical cancer?

Cervical cancer starts in the cells lining the cervix (the lower part of the uterus/womb that opens into the vagina). Cervical cancer can often be successfully treated when it is found early – therefore it is so important for women to go regularly for pap smears.

 

What factors may increase a woman's risk of developing cervical cancer?
  • human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. The most important risk factor for cervical cancer is infection with HPV. Sexual activity with someone who has HPV is the most common way someone gets HPV.
  • immune system deficiency. Women with lowered or weak immune systems have a higher risk of developing cervical cancer. A lowered immune system can be caused by immune suppression from corticosteroid medications, organ transplantation, treatments for other types of cancer, or from the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) – which is the virus that causes acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). When a woman has HIV, her immune system is less able to fight off early cancer.
  • Women who have genital herpes have a higher risk of developing cervical cancer.
  • Women who smoke are about twice as likely to develop cervical cancer as women who do not smoke.
  • Girls younger than 15 rarely develop cervical cancer. The risk goes up between the late teens and mid-30s. Women over 40 remain at risk and need to continue having regular cervical cancer screenings, which include both a pap smear and HPV test.
  • race/ethnicity. Cervical cancer is more common among black women, Hispanic women and American Indian women.
  Q. What are the signs and symptoms of cervical cancer?

Very early-stage cervical cancer may have no symptoms. Therefore it’s important to go for your regular cervical screening so that any early cell changes can be picked up.

 

Common symptoms can include
  • vaginal bleeding between periods
  • vaginal bleeding after sex
  • vaginal bleeding after the menopause (after you have stopped having periods)

 

Other symptoms include
  • a smelly vaginal discharge
  • discomfort during sex
  • pain in the pelvic area
  • Late signs
    • Lower back pain
    • blood in the urine or stool
    • vaginal passing of stool or urine

 

If you’re attending a regular screening, you should let your GP know if you develop any of these symptoms between your tests. There are many other conditions that can cause these symptoms, but it’s important to see your GP or practice nurse to get them checked out.
  Q. What is the treatment for cervical cancer?
The treatment for most stages of cervical cancer includes (one or a combination of):
  • surgery, such as a hysterectomy and removal of pelvic lymph nodes with or without removal of both ovaries and fallopian tubes
  • chemotherapy
  • radiation therapy

 

Depending on how much the cancer has grown, you may have one or more treatments. And you may have a combination of treatments. You won't be able to have children if you have a hysterectomy, but this isn't always needed, especially when cancer is detected very early.

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