Wednesday 26 July 2017

Cervical cancer: All you need to know

Stock Image/Getty Images
Stock Image/Getty Images
Denise Calnan

Denise Calnan

'Prevention' and 'early diagnosis' are the key words when it comes to cervical cancer, according to the experts.

The 'c' word can be intimidating and medical jargon can be confusing, but we have all you need to know about cervical cancer here.

What is cervical cancer?

Cervical cancer is cancer of the cervix. 

The cervix, otherwise known as the 'neck of the womb', connects a woman's womb and her vagina. It is a rare cancer and affects about 300 women in Ireland each year.

It can affect women of all ages but it is most common in women aged 35-40. It is very rare in women under 25, the age you can avail of your free cervical screening.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms may not be evident until a late stage of the cancer. They can include:

  • Any unusual bleeding from the vagina, particularly after sex or after the menopause when your periods have stopped
  • Persistent vaginal discharge that is blood stained or smells unpleasant

The HSE has also advised young women to let your know doctor know about any possible symptoms, even if you have had a normal screening test or have been vaccinated against HPV.

What are the causes?

About 99pc of cervical cancers are caused by a common sexually transmitted infection called human papilloma virus (HPV). Most women have HPV at some time, but it usually clears up on its own.

If the infection doesn't clear up there is a risk of abnormal cells developing which could become cervical cancer over time.

Can you prevent it?

  • Women are requested to avail of the free cervical screening service from CervicalCheck
  • The HSE advises young women under the age of 18 to have the HPV vaccine
  • If you smoke, try to stop
  • Use a condom to reduce your risk of HPV and other sexually transmitted infections

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