Cervical cancer affects and is diagnosed in almost 3,000 women in the UK alone yearly.
Deaths have fallen in the last 20 years due to strong and persistent screening programmes, where the pre-cancerous abnormal cells are recognised and treated before the development of cervical cancer.
HPV infection with one of the high risk types has been shown to be an important factor in the development of cervical cancer. HPV DNA is detected virtually in all cases of cervical cancer (90%), although not all factors that play a role are known.
The most aggressive types of HPV are 16 and 18. It is possible to have HPV infection for many years whilst still having normal smears. Just having HPV doesn’t mean you will develop cancer but if the infection persists it can then lead to pre-cancerous changes.
Symptoms of cervical cancer
If abnormal cells develop into cancer, the following cervical cancer symptoms may be presented:
- Vaginal bleeding (between periods or after sex)
- Smelly vaginal discharge
- Discomfort during sex
- Vaginal bleeding after menopause
Causes of cervical cancer
There are a number of risk factors that are thought to be contributing to cervical cancer, although the exact cause is not understood yet. 90% of Cervical Cancer appears to be associated with HPV which can be passed on through sex (STI). HPV is known as the “common cold” of STIs due to the large numbers of people out there with the virus and the ease of passing the virus on.
There are more than 150 types of HPV, 15 of them are said to be high risk. It is possible to have a multiple of strains of HPV. A few (16, 18) are considered to be prime risk factors for cervical cancer; others can cause other types of infections such as genital warts.
Although we do not know exactly what causes cervical cancer, you are more likely to develop cervical cancer if you:
- Start to have sex at an early age
- Have many sexual partners or partner has many partners
- Taken contraceptive pill on a long-term basis
- Have a weakened immune system, and or don’t clear the HPV infection
It is highly recommended that women should have regular cervical screening. This would allow for any abnormal cells to be detected early.
If you have an abnormal screening result, a colposcopy is recommended, which is a small biopsy, involving a small tissue sample to be taken for further testing. The biopsy will tell you the grade of changes in the cervical cells ie CIN1, CIN2, CIN 3, and decide what treatment is.
Treatment of cervical cancer
Treatment options include:
Prevention of cervical cancer
Three ways to reduce your risk for developing cervical cancer:
- Using a condom during sex will give you some protection from HPV
- Regular Cervical cancer screening
- Gardasil vaccination. This is a preventative vaccine against the 4 most common strains of HPV (6, 11, 16 and 18) At samedaydoctor, we provide Gardasil vaccination. However, it doesn’t treat HPV or cervical cancer but is a strong preventative measure against HPV, the screening remains a vital process and shouldn’t be ignored
At samedaydoctor, we offer a full STI/STD screening and cervical screening. Cervical screening may detect changes in the cells of the cervix at a pre-cancerous stage. If abnormal cells are caught early, cancer can be prevented or treated.
We recommend HPV testing and cervical cancer screening to all our female patients who are sexually active regardless of their age.