The Silent Struggle: Understanding the Symptoms and Risk Factors of Cervical Cancer on Women
If you didn’t know January marked Cervical Cancer Awareness month, so we want to reiterate why it’s so important to be mindful of cervical cancer and proactive in getting regular smear tests so you can stay on top of your health.
Cervical cancer is a common type of cancer that affects women in the UK. According to Cancer Research UK, the following statistics are relevant:
- In the UK, around 3,200 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year.
- It is the 13th most common cancer in women in the UK.
- Most cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed in women aged between 30 and 45.
- The number of cervical cancer cases has decreased over the last 40 years, due to the introduction of cervical screening (also known as the smear test).
- Despite this, cervical cancer remains a significant health issue, and around 900 women die from the disease each year in the UK.
It's worth noting that cervical cancer is largely preventable through regular cervical screening and the HPV vaccine, so it's important for women to attend regular screenings and consider getting vaccinated. Let’s go into a brief dive into what Cervical Cancer is, its symptoms and risks, and treatments.
Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that affects the cervix, the lower part of the uterus that connects to the vagina. It is a common type of cancer affecting women worldwide, and if not detected and treated in its early stages, it can be life-threatening.
Symptoms and Risk Factors
The symptoms of cervical cancer may not be noticeable in the early stages, but as the disease progresses, common symptoms may include vaginal bleeding between periods, after sexual intercourse, or after menopause, pelvic pain, and unusual vaginal discharge.
Risk factors for developing cervical cancer include smoking, a weakened immune system, exposure to the human papillomavirus (HPV), long-term use of oral contraceptives, and a family history of cervical cancer.
Diagnosis and Screening
Diagnosis of cervical cancer is typically made through a pelvic exam, a PAP test (also known as a PAP smear), and sometimes a biopsy. A PAP test is a screening tool that detects pre-cancerous or cancerous cells in the cervix. Regular PAP tests are crucial for the early detection and treatment of cervical cancer.
Treatment for cervical cancer depends on the stage of cancer and the patient's overall health. Common treatments include:
- Surgery: Surgery may be recommended to remove the cancerous tissue. This can include a simple procedure such as a cone biopsy or a hysterectomy, which is the removal of the uterus.
- Radiation therapy: This treatment uses high-energy beams to destroy cancer cells. It may be used alone or in combination with surgery.
- Chemotherapy: This treatment uses drugs to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Chemotherapy may be used alone or in combination with radiation therapy.
- Targeted therapy: This treatment uses drugs that target specific proteins or genes that help cancer cells grow.
- Immunotherapy: This treatment helps the body's immune system fight cancer cells.
Preventing cervical cancer starts with the HPV vaccine, which protects against the types of HPV that cause most cases of cervical cancer. It is recommended for girls and boys at the age of 11 or 12. In addition, women should get regular PAP tests, practice safe sex, and quit smoking to reduce their risk of developing cervical cancer.
In conclusion, cervical cancer is a serious disease that affects women worldwide. Early detection through regular PAP tests is crucial for successful treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about cervical cancer, be sure to book an appointment at The Doctors Clinic Group where one of our doctors can assist you with any concerns you may have.
We understand that you may initially feel uncomfortable having a smear test, our female nurses and doctors will help you feel at ease and comfortable throughout the process with the result being returned to you in 3-5 working days. As well as cervical smears, The Doctors Clinic Group also offers women’s health packages, where you can get a variety of things checked such as breast screening, pregnancy and fertility testing and more.