Monday 19 to Sunday 24 January is Cervical Cancer Prevention Week, dedicated to raising awareness of cervical cancer and how to reduce your risk of the disease.
Jenny Daly, Big C’s Cancer Information Clinical Nurse Specialist, has answered some common questions regarding cervical cancer and how Big C can help not only those who’ve been diagnosed, but even those who may be apprehensive of attending their cervical screening.
Q: How does cervical cancer develop and who does it affect?
A: Cervical cancer occurs when abnormal cells in the lining of the cervix grow in an uncontrolled way.
It can affect women of all ages, but it mainly occurs in women between the ages of 30-45. It is rare in women under 25.
Q: What causes cervical cancer?
A: Almost all cervical cancer is caused by the Human Papillomavirus (HPV).
HPV is a viral infection which can be passed between people through skin-to-skin contact. According to the NHS website, HPV types linked to cancer are called high-risk types.
These high-risk types of HPV can cause cervical cancer, anal cancer, cancer of the penis, vulval cancer, vaginal cancer and some types of head and neck cancer.
Q: What are the signs or symptoms for cervical cancer?
A: Common signs and symptoms can include:
- Spotting and/or bleeding between periods
- Bleeding after intercourse
- Vaginal discharge
- Unexplained and/or persistent back or pelvic pain.
Q: What are some ways in which you can reduce the risk of cervical cancer?
A: Some ways to reduce the risk of developing this cancer are:
- Attend your cervical screening. Ensure you make an appointment when you get your reminder in the post
- Have the HPV vaccine if you are offered it
- Try to stop smoking. Your GP can refer you to the NHS Stop Smoking Scheme
- Practice safe sex
- Be aware of the signs and symptoms of cervical cancer
- Make an appointment with your GP or a nurse if you have any concerns – don’t wait until you are due your next smear.
- Know where you can get more information and support. To access Big C’s support, call our Telephone Support Line at 0800 092 7640 (Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm) or email us at email@example.com. You can also access support and information from Macmillan Cancer Support, Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust and the Eve Appeal.
Q: I received my letter informing me I am due for a cervical screening? Should I still make an appointment?
A: Yes, it is still important to attend your screening in light of Covid-19 (Coronavirus), unless you or someone you live with has symptoms of coronavirus. If you have symptoms or are self-isolating, do not attend your appointment and speak with your GP so that this can be rearranged.
All NHS services have measures in place to ensure it is safe for you to attend your appointment. Staff will be following strict guidance on infection control to protect you and themselves.
However, if you have any concerns about attending your appointment, talk to your doctor, practice nurse or the screening service, they’ll be happy to answer any questions you have and discuss your concerns with you.
Contact your GP surgery online or by phone if you think you are due to have cervical screening, have had your previous appointment delayed or have not been sent an invite.
Q: How can Big C help someone who is nervous about their cervical screening?
A: Big C can offer appointments with our nurse specialists who will answer any questions you may have and discuss any concerns. They do not have access to your medical records, so you may still need to ask some of your questions to your consultant or hospital nurse specialists.
Ring our Telephone Support Line at 0800 092 7640 (Monday to Friday 9.00am-5.00pm) to make a telephone appointment.
Q: Where can I find more information and support?
Big C’s Online Centre is our cancer support and information portal – you’ll find more information about our services and other vital information about local cancer support.
Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust is the UK’s leading cervical cancer charity which provides a variety of information about cervical cancer, cervical screenings and much more.
The Eve Appeal is a national charity fund researching and raising awareness into the five gynaecological cancers – womb, ovarian, cervical, vulval and vaginal.
The Norfolk LGBT+ Project is a registered charity providing support and information to all age groups that is relevant to the health and wellbeing of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in Norfolk and Waveney.
You should also contact your GP if you have any concerns. Many GPs are offering phone and video appointments, alongside some offering in-person appointments.
As our Centres remain temporarily closed due to Covid-19, our Cancer Support Services have moved online and over-the-phone.
If you or someone you know needs support, call our Telephone Support Line at 0800 092 7640 or email firstname.lastname@example.org