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Cervical cancer is the 14th most common cancer among those with a cervix.

Though that is not high on the list, it still amounts to nearly 9 diagnoses a day. Nearly all cervical cancers are caused by an infection from certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV). It can often be prevented by attending cervical screening, which aims to find and treat changes to cells before they turn into cancer. Cervical cancer usually grows very slowly, between 5 to 20 years.

What is Cervical Cancer?

Cervical Cancer can be found in anywhere in the cervix, the opening between the vagina and the womb. Abnormal cells in the lining of the cervix grow in an uncontrolled way and eventually form a growth (tumour). If undetected it can spread to other areas of the body. Therefore, it is important to know the symptoms and your risks.

Who is at higher risk?

If you are included in some of these risk categories, it doesn’t mean you will definitely get cancer. Similar to if you are not included in these categories, it doesn’t mean you definitely won’t get cancer. But it is good to be aware of your risks and any factors that might give you an increased chance of developing ovarian cancer. These factors include:

Age – More common in younger people under the age of 45

HPV – Nearly all types of cervical cancer are caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV). HPV can be contracted through sex and sexual contact

The Pill – 1 in every 10 cases are linked to taking the contraceptive pill. Taking the pill for more than 5 years increases your risk. However, the increased risk begins to drop as soon as you stop taking it. After 10 years the risk is the same as if you had never taken it.

Having Children – Women who have had children are at an increased risk of being diagnosed compared to those who haven’t. Having your first baby before the age of 17 also gives a higher risk, compared to women who had their first baby after the age of 25.

How do I reduce my risk?

Practice safe sex. By using condoms you will lower your chance of getting HPV

Quit Smoking. Smoking doubles your risk of developing cervical cancer due chemicals found in cigarettes and the fact it lowers your immune system

–  Cervical Screenings. Regular cervical screenings are a sure way to catch any abnormal or changed cells before they become cancer

What are the symptoms of cervical cancer?

Early cervical cancers and pre cancerous cell changes don’t usually have symptoms. In light of this it is so important that you go for regular cervical screenings to catch cervical cancer early. Some symptoms to look out for are:

– Vaginal bleeding that is unusual for you, outside of your period. This includes bleeding during or after sex, between your periods or after the menopause

– Changes to your vaginal discharge. Whether looking or smelling different

– Pain or discomfort during sex

– Pain in your lower back, between your hip bones or in your lower tummy

Remember, these symptoms do not always indicate cervical cancer and may be due to other issues or conditions. If you have any of these symptoms and are worried about what they mean. Book a cervical screening or an appointment with your GP.