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Cervical Cancer

In 2015, around 3,100 women were diagnosed with cervical cancer in the UK.

Cervical cancer develops in a woman's cervix which is the entrance to the womb from the vagina. Cervical cancer is more common in younger women and usually affects sexually active women aged between 30 and 45.

The leading cause of cervical cancer is a persistent infection of certain types of the human papilloma virus (HPV). HPV is a common virus; in most cases, your immune system clears the infection without any problems. 



Overall in the North West, rates of cervix uteri cancers are 19% higher than in the rest of England. However, this number increases to 31% higher than the national average in Merseyside. It's 35% higher in Cumbria and 21% higher in Lancashire. 

In North Wales, cervical cancer rates are 43% higher than the national average. Denbighshire records rates of cervical cancers over double the national average, while Gwynedd, Wrexham, Flintshire, and Anglesey all record rates between 33% and 41% higher than the rest of Wales.



Cancer of the cervix often has no symptoms in its early stages. The most common symptom is abnormal vaginal bleeding, which can occur during or after sex, in between periods, or new bleeding after you have been through the menopause.

Abnormal bleeding doesn't mean you have cervical cancer, but you should see your GP as soon as possible to get it checked out.

If your GP thinks you might have cervical cancer, they will refer you to a specialist within two weeks.



HPV causes almost all cases of cervical cancer.

HPV is a common virus transmitted through any type of sexual contact with a man or a woman. There are more than 100 types of HPV, many harmless. However, some types can cause abnormal changes to the cells of the cervix, which can eventually lead to cervical cancer.



A colposcopy is a test to look at the cervix in detail. The doctor or specialist nurse takes samples of any abnormal areas.

A colposcope is a large magnifying glass that a doctor or specialist nurse uses to closely look at the skin-like covering of the cervix.

By looking through it, the colposcopist can see changes that may be too small to see with the naked eye. In addition, they can take samples of any abnormal areas on the cervix. For most women, this is a painless examination. 

If your doctor or nurse finds an area of abnormal cells, you might have treatment there and then. They call this 'see and treat'. Or they may wait until they have the biopsy results.

A cone biopsy may also be carried out. This is a small operation under general anaesthetic to remove a cone-shaped piece of tissue from your cervix for further testing.  A cone biopsy also treats abnormal cervical cells picked up through cervical screening. The abnormal cells might be on the cervix's outer surface or the cervix's inner part.  If left untreated, abnormal cervical cells might develop into cervical cancer.



Early cervical cancer diagnosis usually makes it possible to treat it using surgery. In some cases, leaving the womb in place is possible, but removal may be necessary. The surgical procedure used to remove the womb is called a hysterectomy.

Radiotherapy is another option for some women with early-stage cervical cancer. Sometimes, it's used alongside surgery, chemotherapy, or both.

Treatment for more advanced cases of cervical cancer is typically a combination of chemotherapy and radiotherapy.



Attending cervical screening is the best way to protect yourself from cervical cancer. The NHS Cervical Screening Programme invites all women aged 25 to 64 for cervical screening.

Women aged 25 to 49 are offered screening every three years. For those aged 50 to 64, it's every five years.

During the cervical screening, a small sample of cells is taken from the cervix and checked under a microscope for abnormalities. In some areas, the screening sample is first checked for human papilloma virus (HPV), which can cause abnormal cells.

An abnormal cervical screening test result does not mean you have cancer. Most abnormal results are due to signs of HPV, the presence of treatable precancerous cells, or both, rather than cancer itself.

Since 2008, the HPV vaccine has been routinely offered to girls aged 12 and 13.


If you have any concerns about the signs and symptoms of cervical cancer, please visit your GP. 


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