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Cervical Cancer by Dr Rob Hicks

It's one of the most common cancers in young women, but thanks to an effective nationwide screening programme, fewer women than ever are dying from cervical cancer. More awareness of the early warning signs could reduce these figures.

What causes it?

Cervical cancer develops from cells lining the neck of the womb (cervix). Usually, these cells first develop abnormal changes, which then become cancerous.

A number of factors increase a woman's risk of developing cervical cancer. These include:

  • Infection with human papilloma virus (HPV)
  • A weakened immune system
  • Smoking

Not smoking and practising safe sex by using condoms may help to reduce the risk.


Who's affected

In the UK cervical cancer is the second most common cancer in women under the age of 35. Each year there are around 2,700 new cases.

What are the symptoms?

Often there are no symptoms when abnormal cells have developed or in the early stages of the disease, which is why women are encouraged to attend regular cervical screening.

When symptoms do occur they include:

  • Bleeding after sexual intercourse
  • Bleeding between menstrual periods
  • Bleeding after the menopause
  • Discomfort or pain during sex
  • Unusual vaginal discharge

What's the treatment?

Having regular smear tests (every three to five years in the UK) can help to detect any abnormal changes in the cells, which can then be treated before cancer develops.

Vaccines against some of the more common types of HPV linked to cervical cancer are licensed in the UK. These help to protect women against cervical cancer.

A Government advisory panel has recommended that all girls aged between 12 and 13 in the UK should be vaccinated against the virus.

Treatment depends on the stage of the cancer and includes surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy.

Emotional support for the individual and her family is very important.


From http://www.bbc.co.uk/health/conditions/cervicalcancer1.shtml

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