The red-flag sign of cervical cancer you might spot while having sex – and 3 other subtle symptoms

CERVICAL cancer is a cancer that’s found anywhere in the cervix, the opening between your vagina and womb.

The NHS has pledged to eliminate the disease in England by 2040 by ramping up jab efforts for the HPV virus – one of the cancer’s main causes – and cervical screening.

Cervical cancer is found in the opening between your vagina and womb


Cervical cancer is found in the opening between your vagina and womb

Not everyone diagnosed with the cancer will experience symptoms beforehand, according to Cancer Research UK (CRUK).

Even if they do, their symptoms can be subtle or similar to ones caused by conditions like fibroids or endometriosis.

But you might be able to spot one of them while you’re having sex, according to the NHS.

Patient Claim Line’s litigation executive, Alexandra Penk, said: “In our client’s experience, symptoms of cervical cancer include pain or discomfort during sex.”

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:

  1. unusual vaginal bleeding – this can mean bleeding between periods, during or after sex and any time after menopause
  2. vaginal discharge
  3. 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.

Big Brother star Jade Goody died of the disease aged just 27 in 2009.

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

NHS bosses want millions more to come forward for the screening, which detects cervical changes that indicate a future risk of cancer.

The NHS cervical screening programme is open to women, trans men and non-binary people aged between 25 and 64.

Alexandra said: “In England and Northern Ireland, you should expect to receive an invite every three years, if you are aged between 25 and 49.

“If you are aged between 50 and 64, expect to receive an invite every five years. If you live in Scotland or Wales, you will be invited for screening every five years, between the ages of 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.”

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