With so many heart-wrenching stories of cervical cancer around recently, the disease has really been on women’s radars – which is exactly where it needs to be.

 

With awareness and early detection vitally important, here is the basic information you need to arm yourself with.

 

What is cervical cancer?

Cancer that occurs in the cervix, at the neck of the womb, arising due to the abnormal growth of cells. Human papilloma virus (HPV) is a major risk factor of cervical cancer, which can spread to nearby organs such as the bladder or rectum.

 

 

How can I protect myself?

Typically, there are no symptoms of note in the very early stages of cervical cancer, which is why regular cervical screening is so important.

 

A cervical screening/smear test can be carried out by your GP, who will use a device called a speculum to examine the cervix, and take a sample of cells to send off to the laboratory.

 

Typically, the best time to go for a smear test is halfway through your cycle – so, 10 to 14 days after the first day of your period.

 

 

What are the signs and symptoms?

As the disease develops, you may experience the following symptoms:

  • Spotting/ light bleeding in between or after periods
  • Irregular bleeding during your period
  • Pain and/or bleeding after sex
  • Bleeding after menopause
  • Unusual vaginal discharge
  • Pelvic discomfort or pain

Advanced symptoms include:

  • Weight loss
  • Back pain
  • Fatigue
  • Leg pain and swelling

 

 

How is cervical cancer diagnosed?

Abnormal cell growth is the earliest warning sign of cervical cancer. If lab scientists discover abnormal cell growth in your sample, you will be referred to a specialist.

 

From here, you will undergo further testing, to determine whether or not the cells are malignant or cancerous.

 

This testing may take the form of: a colposcopy (a closer examination of the cervix, vagina and vulva); a pelvic examination; or a biopsy (where a tissue sample is removed and tested).

 

 

How is cervical cancer treated?

Cervical cancer is treated in the same fashion as other forms of cancer: through a course of chemotherapy or radiation treatment, and/or the removal of lymph nodes.

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