Nearly 3,000 women a year are affected by cervical cancer. Cervical cancer develops in a woman’s cervix and primarily affects sexually active women aged 30 – 45. Thanks to effective screening, which detects cancer at a very early stage, and the introduction of vaccination for 12- to 13-year-olds cervical cancer is now an uncommon cancer in the UK. Cervical screening is offered to women aged 25 – 64 and is estimated to save over 4,000 lives each year.
Almost all (99.8%) of cervical cancer cases are preventable with almost all cases caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV), a sexually transmitted infection. In its early stages the disease often has no symptoms, which makes it especially important to attend screenings. The most common symptom is unusual vaginal bleeding, after sex, between periods or following the menopause. If you have any type of unusual vaginal bleeding, visit your GP for advice.
If the cancer is detected at an early stage, it’s usually treated using surgery or radiotherapy. For later stages a combination of chemotherapy and radiotherapy is primarily used. Almost two thirds of women diagnosed with cervical cancer in England and Wales will survive for 10 years or more. Some women with cervical cancer may develop complications as a direct result of the cancer or as a side effect of the treatments. These complications can vary greatly, from the relatively minor, such as some vaginal bleeding or frequent urination, to the relatively major, such as infertility or kidney failure.