CERVICAL cancer is a cancer that’s found anywhere in the cervix, the opening between your vagina and womb.
Not everyone diagnosed with the cancer will experience symptoms beforehand, according to Cancer Research UK (CRUK).
Read more on cervical cancer
Pain during sex is called dyspareunia and is something that some women experience despite having cervical cancer – CRUK notes that it can be caused by many other conditions.
“You should see your doctor straight away if you have this,” it added.
Other symptoms that you might experience are:
- unusual vaginal bleeding – this can mean bleeding between periods, during or after sex and any time after menopause
- vaginal discharge
- pain the in the area between the hipbones, called the pelvis
Bleeding from the vagina at times other than when you’re on your period tends to be one of the most common symptoms of cervical cancer, according to CRUK.
As for bleeding after sex, the charity said this isn’t necessarily a sign of the disease.
It’s often caused by something called a cervical erosion or ectropion, a condition common in young girls and women who are on the pill or pregnant that causes cells normally inside the cervical canal to be seen on the outside surface of the cervix.
Cervical erosion is caused by changing hormones and usually goes away by itself or by changing contraception.
But CRUK said it’s always a good idea to get unusual vaginal bleeding checked out by a doctor.
What causes cervical cancer?
About 99.7 per cent of cervical cancer cases are caused by persistent genital high-risk human papillomavirus (HPV) infection, according to an article published to the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.
HPV viruses are very common and don’t tend to make most people sick.
But can sometimes cause genital warts or abnormal changes to cells cancer.
The NHS says you can get HPV from:
- any skin-to-skin contact of the genital area
- vaginal, anal or oral sex
- sharing sex toys
Approximately 3,200 people are diagnosed with cervical cancer in the UK and about 850 people succumb to the disease every year.
What steps can I take to prevent or catch cervical cancer early?
Alexandra advised that, to prevent cervical cancer, anyone at risk should:
- Attend cervical screening when invited by their health practitioner
- Be aware of the symptoms of cervical cancer and seeking medical advice if experiencing any symptoms
- Take up the HPV vaccination if aged 11-18 when offered – if you missed it at school, you get it up to the age of 25 for free
- Talk to family and friends to ensure they know how they can reduce their risk and prevent cancer occurring
- Know where to find support locally and further information which will be widely available at your GP and local family planning clinic
The NHS cervical screening programme is open to women, trans men and non-binary people aged between 25 and 64.
At-home “self-sampling” is also being considered to boost uptake screenings, also known as ‘smear tests’.
If you have the cancer, treatment might include surgery or a form of chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
“If there’s been a delay in treating your cervical cancer, this is considered to be medical negligence,” Alexandra said.
“You are therefore entitled to make a claim for compensation.”