It’s important that we turn our thoughts to what we can do to educate ourselves and take preventive measures where we can. Raising awareness of the symptoms and encouraging our friends to attend routine screenings will ensure that more women have earlier, treatable diagnoses and more positive outcomes. Here are what preventive measures you can take:
Whilst we are yet to find a cure for cancer, the age-old saying of prevention is better than cure, rings especially true when it comes to The Big C. We can’t say it enough, make sure you always attend your smear test, no matter what. It’s the single biggest preventative measure you can take, yes, it’s a moment of being uncomfortable – but it could quite literally save your life.
The smear test itself will take around 10 minutes and involves a quick swab by a nurse to gently remove a sample of cells from your cervix which are sent off to a lab and examined for any abnormal growth. If you are aged 25 to 49 then you are likely to be invited for a Pap test every 3 years, but this could be sooner if you have recently had abnormal results, whereas women aged 50 to 64 are invited around every 5 years.
As a woman, although you can’t ever diminish your risk of cervical cancer completely, you can lower your chances by either not smoking at all or making the decision to cut down. It is scientifically proven that people who smoke are less able to get rid of the HPV infection from the body, which can develop into cancer – another reason to kick the habit for good.
It’s not just pregnancy and STI nasties that condoms can protect you against. According to NHS choices, most cases of cervical cancer are linked to an infection with certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV) which can be spread through unprotected sex, so being pro-active using a condom can reduce your risk of developing the infection.
It’s also important to take into consideration that the HPV virus is not just passed on through sex, it can also be transmitted during any type of sexual contact. So, make yourself and your health a priority and don’t rely on the other person bringing condoms into the conversation. After all, safe sex is sexy and good sex is all about communication.
In UK schools, 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. 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.
As pap tests are usually every 3 years if we are aged 25 and above, we should still know what to look out for and give close attention to any changes. According to the cervical cancer charity, Jo’s trust, these are the main symptoms to look out for:
If you have any symptoms or concerns, we would always advise you to make an appointment with your GP as soon as possible even if your most recent smear test has come back with normal results.