Which is why we think that campaigns like Cervical Cancer Prevention Week are so as the most common type of cancer in young women under 35 in the UK.
We see this as a positive movement for and an opportunity to raise awareness of attending your smear test so more and more women can make the best choices for their health and together we can prevent as many cases of cervical cancer as possible.
The NHS defines it as cancer which develops in a woman's cervix and mainly affects sexually active women aged between 30 and 45.
Almost all cases of cervical cancer are caused by human papillomavirus or HPV, which is a very common virus that you are likely to have been exposed to if you have had any sexual contact with a man or woman. There are more than 100 strains of HPV, many of which are harmless and naturally disappear with time.
However, some types can cause abnormal changes to the cells of the cervix, which may or may not eventually lead to cervical cancer which is why it’s so important that, as women, we attend the routine cervical screening, so we can monitor changes before they develop.
So, we can educate and spread the message to not just ourselves – but all women including our mum, sister, auntie, friends and even our grandma about going to our smear test when invited.
As women it is our responsibility to raise awareness of the symptoms and encourage the people we are close too, to attend their routine screenings so that we can work towards more women having earlier, treatable and positive outcomes.
Whilst researchers are doing all they can to find a cure and it remains a fact that we can’t eradicate our risk of cervical cancer completely, there is still a lot we can do to lower our risk-factors as much as possible.
Always attend your routine smear test
· Make it your number one priority to always attend your smear test, no matter what. This is the best way that you can protect yourself from cervical cancer as the test will pick up any abnormalities which can be treated before they have the chance to develop any further.
· However much you may have built it up, the smear test itself will usually take no longer than about 10 minutes of your time and isn’t as uncomfortable as you might think if you haven’t had one before. It simply involves a quick swab by your nurse to gently remove a sample of cells from your cervix which will be checked under a microscope for any changes.
· Once you turn 25, you are likely to be invited for a Pap test every 3 years or so, but this could be sooner if you have recently had abnormal results, whereas women aged 50 and above should attend every 5 years.
Make sure that you are vaccinated against HPV
· Here in the UK, all girls are routinely offered the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine free from the NHS from the age of 12 up to their 18th birthday to protect them against cervical cancer.
· Remember, even if you've been vaccinated for HPV, this does not 100% guarantee protection against cervical cancer so it’s still important to attend your smear tests as normal, we can’t stress this enough.
Give up or cut down on smoking
· You can lower your chances by either not smoking at all or making the decision to cut down. This is because it is a scientific fact that people who smoke are less able to get rid of the HPV infection from the body, which can later develop into cancer.
Keep a close eye on any recent changes
As pap tests are usually every 3 years if we are aged 25 and above, we should know what to look out for and monitor any unusual changes that don’t seem to subside. That being said, it varies between women and sometimes there can often be no symptoms at all which is why attending our smear is so important.
According to women’s cervical cancer charity, Jo’s trust, these are the main things to regularly look out for:
If you have experienced any of the above symptoms, do not panic as they may not necessarily be linked to cancer. Even so, we would still always advise you to make an appointment to see your GP for further advice even if your most recent smear test has come back as clear.