With reports showing a 20 year low in women attending their smear tests*, we feel it is more important than ever to raise awareness of cervical cancer, which Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, put in the spotlight with their awareness week in January.
Cervical cancer isn’t hereditary an it ‘mainly’ affects sexually active women aged between 30 and 45. It develops in the cervix (the entrance to the womb from the vagina) when abnormal cells in the lining grow in an uncontrolled way.
Symptoms are rare before diagnosis, but abnormal vaginal bleeding during or after sex, between periods, or after the menopause, can be an indication that something is wrong. Other signs can be pain and discomfort during sex, unpleasant vaginal discharge or pain in the lower back or pelvis. Like so many diseases, the earlier cervical cancer is detected, the better the chances are of treatment working, and a full recovery being made.
As well as speaking to your GP if you have concerns or experience any symptoms, the best way to protect yourself from this kind of cancer, is by having regular smear tests (also referred to as cervical screening).
During a smear test, which only takes a few minutes, a sample of cells are taken from the cervix and checked for abnormalities under a microscope. If any traces of abnormal cells are found, this does not automatically mean you have cancer, but it does mean the relevant steps can be taken to ascertain exactly what is going on and if further treatment is needed.
Dr. Venkat, of the Harley Street Fertility Clinic, says, “Smear tests aim to prevent cervical cancer from developing and we screen all patients prior to commencing IVF or IUI treatment, as a matter of course. We know there can be an element of embarrassment about having a smear test, but the reality is they save lives, so it is vital women have them. We hope that awareness weeks, media coverage and public figures like Teresa May, talking honestly about their experiences and the importance of testing, will encourage others to do the same.”
She adds, “If someone is diagnosed with cervical cancer, they will feel many emotions and have many questions, and one of those could be about their future fertility. Early treatments may not have any impact at all, but for someone who has a more progressed illness, it is important to know that radiotherapy does affect the womb and means it is not possible to have children naturally afterwards. Some chemotherapy and radiotherapy drugs can affect the ovaries and bring on an early menopause, which again seriously impacts being able to conceive a child. It is always worth talking to your medical team if you do have a cancer diagnosis and discussing fertility so you can make the right choices for you.”
You can find more information at Cancer Research, and Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, and again, we cannot stress enough how important it is to attend your regular smear test. If you think one is due and you have not been informed, speak to your GP and get a date in your diary.
Harley Street Fertility Clinic