Cervical Cancer Prevention Week 21st – 27th January 2019
Every year in Ireland about 300 women get cervical cancer and 90 women die from it. Cervical cancer is the second most common cause of death due to cancer in women aged 25 to 39 years. Worldwide cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer in women with over 500,000 new cases and over 250,000 deaths in 2012.
Cervical Cancer Causes & Prevention
Most cervical cancers are caused by the HPV virus, a very common virus that is passed on during sex. Most women will get this infection in their lifetime and it usually clears up by itself. If you smoke, it can prevent the infection from clearing up.
Ongoing HPV infections can cause abnormal changes in the lining of your cervix. These changes, if left untreated, can lead to Cervical Cancer. Not having regular smear tests can increase your risk of getting cervical cancer too. Cervical cancer is now largely preventable because there is a vaccine that guards against HPV (human papillomavirus). The HPV vaccine will make antibodies that will protect you against many HPV types.
Ireland has had a cervical cancer screening programme since 2008. However even in countries with well-established screening programmes many young women still die from cervical cancer. Cervical screening looks for pre-cancer changes of the cervix before they become cancer. The HPV vaccine prevents these precancer changes to the cervix. The HPV vaccine will greatly reduce the number of women dying from cancer and also the need for hospital treatment of cervical precancers (CIN). HPV vaccine protects against HPV types 16 and 18 which cause 7 out of 10 cervical cancers. The vaccine is licensed for girls and women aged 9–26. But it is proven to work best for girls and women who have not been exposed to the virus. It is still very important for girls to have regular smear tests when they are adults to detect cancers caused by HPV types not in the vaccine.
What are the symptoms of Cervical Cancer?
There are some recognised symptoms associated with cervical cancer that you should be aware of. These include;
• Abnormal bleeding: during or after sexual intercourse, or between periods
• Post-menopausal bleeding: if you are not on hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or have stopped it for six weeks or more
• Unusual vaginal discharge
• Discomfort or pain during sexual intercourse
• Lower back pain
What to do if you are experiencing symptoms?
If you are experiencing any or all of these symptoms or are concerned about any new symptom you should make an appointment to see your GP as soon as possible. You should report these symptoms even if you have recently had a cervical screening (smear test) that came back normal. Remember, these symptoms can be associated with many other conditions that are not cancer related. There are usually no symptoms associated with abnormal cervical cells and not all women diagnosed with cervical cancer experience symptoms, which is why it is so important to attend regular cervical screening when you are invited. A National Cervical Screening Programme is available in Ireland called CervicalCheck. The Government funds this service and provides free smear tests to women aged 25 to 60 years. The HPV vaccine will protect girls from developing cervical cancer when they are adults and is available free of charge from the HSE.
Are you due your Smear Test?
Regular screening saves lives. Don’t fear the smear – it’s free, painless and only takes a few minutes. For more details, contact CervicalCheck at 1800 45 45 55 or visit the CervicalCheck website
As cervical cancer develops it can cause further symptoms. These may include:
• Increased frequency of urination
• Blood in the urine
• Bleeding from the bottom
• Lower limb lymphoedema (swelling)
If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with cervical cancer, The Irish Cancer Society can provide the information you need, whether you’re making a decision about treatment, looking for support or just need to understand the basics.
For More Information https://bit.ly/2RUEhN7
Sources of Information: The Irish Cancer Society, HSE, Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust UK