Cervical cancer - the facts
Thursday 19 November 2009
Jade Goody’s battle with the disease was highly publicised in order to raise awareness for the cause and pay for her sons’ future, and she succeeded in doing both!
More than 500,000 people put themselves forward for testing after hearing about Jade’s untimely passing, though testing is currently only available for women over 25.
Confused as to what the fuss is about with the disease? We’ve teamed up with the Jo’s Trust charity and NHS Choice to make sure you’re informed cervical cancer.
Dr Anne Szarewski, Clinical Consultant for Cancer Research UK, has offered up the facts that matter on cervical cancer - worried about your lifestyle?
Currently, the disease affects around 2,800 women every year in the UK, and just over a third of cases are fatal.
According to Dr Szarewski, the risk of contracting cervical cancer is affected by the following factors:
HPV virus The human papillomavirus (HPV or wart virus) is considered to be the most important factor in causing cervical cancer. The virus is sexually transmitted, and may not manifest itself on the body – even if you don’t have genital warts, you could still be carrying the virus.
Number of sexual partners Women who have had a higher number of sexual partners are more susceptible to the disease, for the reason that they have had a higher chance of encountering the disease. Practice safe sex whenever you can – there’s no shame in carrying a condom in your purse.
Age at first intercourse If you have sex before you turn twenty, you are more susceptible to the virus than if you become sexually active after the age of 20.
Smoking Cigarette smoke may have a carcinogenic (i.e. damaging) effect on the cervix, and can also make you more susceptible to contracting the HPV virus.
As far as symptoms are concerned, the most prevalent is bleeding after sex, but this isn’t conclusive to having cervical cancer - often the disease is completely symptom-free.
What’s important is that you get your smear test as soon as you receive an alert from your doctor (this will usually be by post).
If you’re under 25 but have had instances of cervical cancer in your family before, talk to your GP about being screened regularly to ensure that if you are predisposed, you can catch it early.
Around 200,000 women have abnormal smear tests a year, so there’s no immediate need to panic if your results are unusual – and if you are diagnosed, this cancer can be easily beaten if it’s caught early.
Check out Jo’s Trust and NHS Choices for more information.