Every month in 2017 we’ll be exploring a different health topic to help raise awareness, provide you with a resource of information and highlight a charity you can get involved with and find out more from. As January is cervical cancer awareness month it’s an appropriate topic for our first health overview.
- Approx 3,000 per women are diagnosed in the UK per year
- Most common in women aged 35 years and under
- 99.97% of cases are thought to have been caused by persistent infections with a virus called high-risk HPV
- 1/3 of women die from cervical cancer per year
What is cervical cancer?
It is a type of cancer that that develops in the cervix. It is the cells within the cervix (entrance to the womb from the vagina) that are subject to change that threatens cervical cancer. If detected early enough, the development of cancer can be prevented (from precancerous cells). It often has no symptoms in its early stages.
What causes cervical cancer?
It is thought that HPV (human papillomavirus) is the cause for most cases of cervical cancer. It is a virus that is transmitted through skin to skin contact in the genital region. 80% of people that are sexual active will be infected with a strain of HPV in their lifetime. Although the virus is common, the majority of women will not develop cervical cancer.
It is not thought to be hereditary.
What symptoms are indicitive of cervical cancer?
- Bleeding at times other than your period (between periods, after sex, after menopause)
- A vaginal discharge that smells unpleasant
- Discomfort of pain during sex
What are the prevention methods for cervical cancer?
Cervical screenings are offered to women over 25 years old. A sample of cells is taken from the cervix for microscopic analysis for any abnormalities. Appointments are offered routinely:
- every 3 years for those between 25 and 49
- every 5 years between 50 to 64
- When 65+ you’ll only be invited to a screening if you’ve not had a test before or have tested positive for abnormal cells in the past.
It’s important that when you receive your letter from the GP to book your screening that you make and attend the appointment at your earliest opportunity. Prevention and early signs are key.
If you’re under 25 or have any indicitive symptoms between your screenings that you make an appointment to visit your GP and insist on an early screening.
As of 2008, vaccinations were rolled for girls aged between 12-13 to add some protection against HPV. The vaccination protects against two common strains of the virus that is responsible for more than 70% of cervical cancers.
Condoms do offer some protection but cannot prevent infection because the virus can be transmitted in skin to skin contact.
The Charity: Jo’s Trust
A charity started in 1999 by James Maxwell in memory of his wife Jo, who died of cervical cancer aged 40. Jo’s trust is dedicated to spreading awareness, providing information and support to all women. You can get involved and help them raise the bar on the awareness of cervical cancer by participating in fundraising, campaigning, donating, getting involved in research, volunteering and spreading the message in your own way (make if your mission to tell at least one other person per week or something). Take a look at their ‘get involved‘ page for what you can do to help this amazing charity.
It’s also coming up to Cervical Cancer Prevention Week (22nd-28th January). So join the #SmearForSmear campaign at 11am on Sunday 22nd of January by wearing your smeared lipstick with pride and share across all your social channels and to your friends to raise awareness. You can also head to the #SmearForSmear segment of Jo’s Trust’s website to download a fundraising kit and materials to help raise further awareness and donations throughout Cervical Cancer Prevention week and the year.