Cervical Cancer was highlighted quite significantly back in 2008/2009 when Jade Goody, famous for appearing on Big Brother, got the devastating news live on TV that she had Cervical Cancer.
What followed on from that was called the Jade Goody Effect, whereby there was a 12% rise in women going for smear tests
When the reality television star died of cervical cancer in 2009, more than 400,000 extra women in England were screened for the disease. But last year, a mere 5 year’s after Jade Goody passed away, Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust’s Chief Executive commented that 20% of women are still not attending a smear test appointment. (dailymail.co.uk)
Cervical Cancer is the most common cancer in women aged 35 and under and affects over 30,000 women in the UK each year.
Cervical Cancer forms in the tissues of the cervix (the area that connects the uterus and the vagina) and 99.7% of cases are caused by the HPV virus (human papillomavirus). HPV is found in around 80% of people, and for the majority of women it will not lead to cervical cancer.
HPV is a very common infection amongst sexually active adults and will affect 4 out of 5 people in their lifetime, without causing any symptoms.
Although HPV is a STI, it can occur even if you use a condom, due to the areas of the genitals it can affect and it can also spread during foreplay. However, you should always use protection to prevent against other STI’s.
Other factors can increase your risk of the HPV virsus turning into cervical cancer. These include:
- Smoking – this is due to your immune system not working properly.
- Weakened immune system
- Having children at a very young age
- Giving birth to many children
- If your mother was given DES (infertility drug) when pregnant with you
- Long term use of the contraceptive pill (more than 10 years) can slightly increase the risk of developing cervical cancer but the benefits of the pill outweigh the risks for most women.
There are two main types of cervical cancer; Squamous cell and Adenocarcinoma.
The most common is squamous with around 80% of sufferers being diganosed with this type.
Adenocarcinoma – appears in around 15-20% of cervical cancer sufferers. This type of cancer can be more difficult to detect with a smear test as it develops in the cervical canal.
One of the many reasons it is important to go for cervical screening (smear test) is that cervical cancer can presents with no symptoms, especially in the early stages.
There are, however, some symptoms that you can keep an eye out for:
- Abnormal bleeding: during or after sexual intercourse, or between periods
- Post menopausal bleeding, if you are not on HRT or have stopped it for six weeks
- Unusual and/or unpleasant vaginal discharge
- Discomfort or pain during sex
- Lower back pain
*Remember, these symptoms can be associated with many other conditions that are not cancer related.*
For more information on Cervical Cancer please click here to go to Jo’s Cancer Trust website.
Next week is Cervical Screening Awareness (CSAW) and I will be looking into Cervical Screening (smear tests) a bit more.