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Cervical Cancer

  • What is Cervical Cancer?

    Cervical cancer is an abnormal growth that forms in the cervix (the neck of the womb at the top of the vagina). It is the most common cancer of the woman's reproductive system. As the cervix is easy to examine, it is possible to screen for cervical cancer using a reliable and inexpensive test called a Papanicolaou (Pap) smear.

    You should have regular screening of your cervix if you are sexually active – every 3 years until the age of 30 and then every 5 years after.

  • The most common cause of cervical cancer is infection with the human papilloma virus (HPV), although not all women with this infection will get cervical cancer. The infection can spread during sexual activity. Other risk factors include:

    • Having a male sexual partner with:
      1. A history of many sexual partners
      2. A previous partner who has had cervical cancer
      3. A previous sexually transmitted infection
    • First sexual activity at a young age (younger than 20 years)
    • Having many sexual partners
    • Smoking
    • Using an oral contraceptive pill
  • Early cervical cancer has no symptoms. You should see a doctor if you have any of the following symptoms:

    • A single swollen leg
    • Abnormal bleeding from the vagina (after sexual intercourse or between menstrual periods)
    • Chronic constipation and feeling a presence of stools despite having emptied your bowel
    • Leaking of urine or faeces from the vagina
    • Low back pain or pelvic pain
    • Pain during sexual intercourse and vaginal discharge
    • Painful or difficult urination and cloudy urine
  • Treatment depends on the stage of the cancer:

    • Early cervical cancer is treated by hysterectomy (removing the uterus) or radiation therapy (high-energy x-ray), often in combination with chemotherapy
    • Advanced cervical cancer is treated byradiation therapy, often concurrently with chemotherapy
    • Pre-cancer of the cervix is treated by removing the abnormal cells from the lining of the cervix. This usually prevents cervical cancer from occurring
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