Around 750 women die of cervical cancer in England each year
However, many of those who develop it have not been screened regularly. Regular cervical screening is the best way to detect changes to the cervix before cancer develops. The signs that it may develop can be spotted early on.
It's possible for women of all ages to develop cervical cancer, although the condition mainly affects sexually active women between the ages of 30 and 45. The condition is very rare in women under 25.
The NHS Screening Programme invites all women aged between 25 and 64 for cervical screening. After your first cervical screen, you will receive invitations every three years between the ages of 25 and 49. You will then be invited every five years between the ages of 50 and 64.
If you have passed the menopause, you still need to be tested to check that your cervix is healthy.
Human papilloma virus (HPV) testing
This is being introduced as part of the cervical screening programme. Almost all cases of cervical cancer are caused by HPV.
HPV is avery common infection and most women get it at some time in their lives. There are many types of HPV and certain types cause abnormal changes in the cervix. In some cases these abnormalities may, if left untreated, go on to develop into cervical cancer.
Are you concerned?
If you have any unusual symptoms, such as vaginal bleeding after sex or between periods, you should speak to your GP. There could be several different reasons for your symptoms, so further investigation is needed.
Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) is the name of different group viruses which does not cause any symptoms so you may not know that you have it. It affects the skin, and you can get it from any kind of skin-to-skin contact of the genital area.
Key Facts about HPV:
1. HPV is extremely common. Most people who have had any type of sexual contact will have HPV at some point in their lives.
2. We can work together as educators to normalise HPV – most people will get it at some point, so focus on the vaccine, cervical screening, knowing symptoms and getting help early.
3. There are a wider range of cancers linked to HPV – not just cervical – these include anal, vaginal, penile, vulval, mouth and throat.
4. Having HPV doesn’t mean that you have done something wrong, that you are dirty, or that your partner has cheated on you.
5. Men/boys/people with penises cannot be tested for HPV.
6. Condoms offer some protection but don’t fully protect against HPV.
7. If you’ve had the vaccine still need to go for screening. People may have the vaccine and get HPV.
8. Know more about symptoms like bleeding after sex and get help with symptoms regardless of vaccine or screening status.
9. There are opportunities in the mandatory RSHE curriculum and wider school health to regularly mention and explain more about HPV to students, parents and carers.