January is Cervical Cancer awareness month!
Because of this, we thought it was the right time to discuss what cervical cancer was, how HPV can affect your risk and also why regular cervical screening is so important.
How common is cervical cancer?
Cervical cancer diagnosis affects over 3,000 women each year, and during the course of just one day, approximately two women will very sadly lose their lives to the condition. It is the most common form of cancer in women aged less than 35 years old, and the rates of survival are dramatically increased if the condition is caught and treated as early as possible (Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust (JCCT), 2016).
How does cervical cancer develop?
Like other types of cancer, cervical cancer occurs when there are structural changes to the DNA of cells within the human body, in particular those cells that line the cervix. Due to these changes, otherwise known as ‘mutations’, cells continue to grow and reproduce instead of stopping thus forming tumours (NHS, 2015). If the cancer is untreated or undetected, the mutated cells are able to travel into the bloodstream (a process known as metastasis), allowing them to to spread to surrounding organs and tissues and cause secondary tumours. If this continues, healthy organs can no longer function, which is a life-threatening and potentially fatal situation (American Cancer Society, 2016).
What about HPV?
Human papilloma virus (HPV) infections cause 99.7% of cervical cancers and trigger changes to occur to the cervical cells (JCCT, 2016). HPV can be spread during sexual intercourse and approximately 4 in 5 women will develop the infection at some point in their lives (NHS, 2015).
HPV vaccination can actually prevent 70% of cases of cervical cancer (JCCT, 2016).
At Tudor Medical Matters, we can also provide a course of HPV vaccinations for those who have not yet been vaccinated. Specific testing can also be performed for HPV to identify women who are at risk of developing cervical cancer.
What about ‘smear’ tests?
‘Smear’ tests are a form of cervical screening test that determines whether a woman has, is developing or is at risk of developing cervical cancer. It is important to have regular cervical screening tests in order to catch cervical cancer early (should it be developing) which can dramatically increase your chances of successful treatment and survival. Current NHS screening guidelines indicate that 25-49 year old women are screened routinely every three years, whilst those aged between 50-64 are screened every five years. Recently, uptake rates for cervical screening/smear tests have dropped dramatically to their lowest rates in twenty years. Now only 72% of UK women will attend for their scheduled cervical screening test when called, with rates in Manchester now as low as 63.9% (Manchester Evening News, 2018).
What are the symptoms I should look out for?
If you experience any symptoms associated with cervical cancer, it is important that you speak to a doctor about what you are experiencing as soon as possible. Cervical cancer symptoms can also be attributed to a number of other conditions that may require treatment, but it is a good idea to investigate them anyway for peace of mind.
Such symptoms include:
Pain during or after sexual intercourse,
Abnormal or unpleasant smelling vaginal discharge,
Vaginal bleeding (between periods, after sexual intercourse or at any time during your menopause)
Pelvic pain and backache (Cancer Research UK, 2017).
We can offer cervical screening at Tudor Medical Matters, should you be due a test, under 25 years old and concerned about cervical cancer, and/or if you simply wish for peace of mind between routine tests.
At Tudor Medical Matters, maintaining your privacy, dignity and comfort is our priority. Chaperones are always available, you will covered by a modesty blanket when you are waiting for the procedure to be performed and it is very quick, usually taking about a minute (or less!) to collect the sample. It should not be painful - it may be slightly uncomfortable for a very short period of time due to insertion of a speculum to visualise the cervix. Despite this slight discomfort, being screened is more than worth it for peace of mind!
Please contact us if you would like to book in for cervical screening, or if you require vaccination against or testing for HPV - call us on 01706 551394 or email us on firstname.lastname@example.org.