Cervical Screening


The aim of the government cervical screening programme is to reduce the number of women who develop cervical cancer and the number of women who die from the disease.

Don't dwell on Cervical Cancer

Smear Test

It should however be made clear that a smear test is not a test for cancer; it is a test to check to detect abnormalities (pre-cancer) at an early stage in the cells in the cervix. Most women's test results show that everything is normal, but for 1 in 20 women the test will show some abnormal changes in those cells.

Most of these changes will not lead to cervical cancer and the cells may go back to normal on their own. However, in some cases, the abnormal cells need to be treated to prevent them becoming cancerous.

Depending on the degree of the abnormality of the cells, cervical dyskaryosis is classed as:
  • Mild dyskaryosis. This is when there are only slight cell changes. This is sometimes called CIN 1. CIN stands for cervical intraepithelial neoplasia.
  • Moderate dyskaryosis (or CIN 2).
  • Severe dyskaryosis (or CIN 3). This is when the cells are very abnormal, but are still not cancerous.

Risk Factors

Cancer Research UK states that around 3,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer in UK each year and Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust confirms that not going for cervical screening is one of the biggest risk factors for developing cervical cancer – as it is estimated that early detection and treatment through cervical screening can prevent up to 75% of cervical cancers from developing in the UK.

Virtually all cases of cervical cancer are associated with HPV infection. Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a very common group of viruses that are transmitted sexually. Some types of HPV do not cause any noticeable symptoms, and which is why cervical screening is so essential.

Other risk factors for cervical cancer include:
  • Smoking
  • Weakened immune system
  • Having children at a very young age
  • Giving birth to many children
  • If your mother was given DES (infertility drug) when pregnant with you
  • There may be a link between long term use of the contraceptive pill (more than 10 years) but the benefits of the pill outweigh the risks for most women.

Symptoms of Cervical Cancer

As Jo’s Trust points out, there are usually no symptoms with abnormal cervical cells and sometimes there are no symptoms with early stage cervical cancer.

It must be stressed that not all women diagnosed with cervical cancer experience symptoms, however, you may experience the following symptoms:
  • abnormal vaginal bleeding, for example between periods or after sex
  • smelly vaginal discharge
  • pain during sex
  • vaginal bleeding after the menopause
  • pain in your pelvis/lower back pain
As cancer develops, so the symptoms will increase and become more severe;
  • Frequency of urine
  • Blood in the urine
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Diarrhoea
  • Incontinence
  • Lower limb lymphoedema
If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms it is recommended that you contact your GP so that the symptoms can be investigated.

For further help and information contact:

Macmillan Cancer Support
  • Tel: 0808 808 0000
  • Web: www.macmillan.org.uk
Provides information and support to anyone affected by cancer.

CancerHelp UK
  • Web:cancerhelp.cancerresearchuk.org/ provides facts about cancer including treatment choices.

Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust
  • Tel: 0808 802 8000
  • Web: www.jostrust.org.uk
A charity dedicated to women, their families and friends affected by cervical cancer and pre-cancer of the cervix.

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