For those of you that haven’t yet heard, this week is cervical cancer prevention week. With 8 UK woman diagnosed with cervical cancer every day and 1,000 UK woman losing their lives to the disease each year, I thought it was important…actually scrap that, a necessity to help spread the word.
Developing in a woman’s cervix, the entrance to the womb from the vagina, cervical cancer remains the most common form of cancer for woman under the age of 35. But what are the main causes of cervical cancer and what are its symptoms?
Causes of cervical cancer
- HPV, aka the Human Papilloma Virus, is one of the known causes of cervical cancer. A sexually transmitted disease, it comes in more than 100 different forms. While some cause symptoms such as genital warts or verruca’s, others are totally symptomless making it hard to spot. It is thought that around 80% of us would have been infected with HPV at some stage in our life, yet it is easily picked up in a routine smear test.
- Smoking. No surprises hear, smoking can cause cell mutations in the body, including those in the cervix, increasing your risk of cervical cancer.
- Other causes include; having children at very young age, long term use of the contraceptive pill, giving birth to many children and a weakened immune system.
Symptoms of cervical cancer
- Discomfort or pain during sex.
- Bleeding following intercourse or between periods.
- Lower back pain.
- Unusual vaginal discharge.
- Post menopausal bleeding.
Unfortunately there are often no symptoms with abnormal cells in their pre-cancerous state and the early stages of cervical cancer. In fact, the brutal truth is, is that once you start noticing symptoms it may already be too late. Who doesn’t remember the tragic death of reality star Jade Goody dying from cervical cancer at the tender age of 27?
Jade Goody’s death in 2009 highlighted just how important attending your routine cervical smear test is but amazingly 1 in 5 of us do not take up our smear test invitations, with this figure leaping up to a shocking 1 in 3 for those aged between 25 to 29 year olds .
Yet the incredible thing about cervical cancer, is it can be a totally preventable cancer thanks to the screening which allows any abnormal cell changes to be picked up before they can develop in to the disease. Latest figures show that an estimated 5000 lives have been saved from cervical screening in the UK each year since its introduction in the 1980s, with rates of the disease now almost halved.
So the proof really is in the pudding ladies. Please don’t just sit back and hope for the best, take up your smear test. After all, is avoiding a few seconds of awkward discomfort (and that’s all it really is) really worth your life?
What would make you more inclined to attend your smear test? Share you thoughts below.