Cervical cancer is a largely preventable disease - thanks to the National Cervical Screening programme, which saves some 4,500 lives every year.
But each day in the UK around three women die from cervical cancer, and eight newly diagnosed women face an uncertain future – so it's absolutely vital to protect ourselves through regular cervical screening, to catch any changes in the cervix at an early stage.
As part of our 'C' Word campaign, Mumsnet has teamed up with experts from Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust to raise awareness about the disease. So if you're unsure what the symptoms are, are worried about your chances of contracting cervical cancer, or already have it and need support, read the answers to your questions in our cervical cancer Q&A.
But there are a few things to look out for:
- Abnormal bleeding after or during sex, or between periods
- Post-menopausal bleeding, if you're not on HRT or have stopped it for six weeks
- Unusual and/or unpleasant vaginal discharge
- Discomfort or pain during sex
- Lower back pain
Don't panic if you do have any of these symptoms - it's unlikely they are caused by a serious problem.
But do tell your GP about them as soon as possible, so that cervical cancer can be discounted.
What causes cervical cancer?
Last year, over 300,000 women had cervical abnormalities picked up - with the vast majority never going on to face cervical cancer.
The majority of cases are caused by persistent infection with a virus called human papillomavirus (HPV), which is transmitted through skin-to-skin contact in the genital area. Around 80% of sexually active people will be infected with HPV at some point in their lives – but the HPV vaccination programme for girls aged 12–18 prevents infection from two of the 'highest risk' strains of HPV, which are responsible for 70% of cervical cancers.
Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust
Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust is the UK's only charity dedicated to women, their families and friends affected by cervical abnormalities and cervical cancer.
They offer a range of services to inform and support women and are there 24 hours a day, making sure that women never feel alone at any stage of their journey.
The charity was established in 1999 by James Maxwell following the death of his wife Jo, who died aged 40 from cervical cancer, leaving him and three young children to cope. Since then, they have helped thousands of women and their families and have worked to raise a new level of awareness of prevention amongst women.
Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust medical experts
Dr Kheng Chew - Consultant Gynaecological Oncologist, Northampton General Hospital
Mr Thomas Ind - Consultant Gynaecological Surgeon and Oncologist, Royal Marsden and St George's Hospital
Mr John Murdoch - Consultant Gynaecologist, St Michael's Hospital, Bristol
Dr Simon Moore - Private GP based in London. Medical Interests: obstetrics and paediatrics
Mr Mark Smith - Biomedical Scientist Grade 3 (BMS3), Lewisham Cytology Dept, University Hospital Lewisham
Dr Anne Szarewski - Clinical Consultant and Honorary Senior Lecturer, Centre for Epidemiology, Mathematics and Statistics, Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine, London
Mr Richard Edmondson - Consultant and Senior Lecturer in Gynaecological Oncology, Queen Elizabeth's Hospital Gateshead
- The 'C' Word
- Ovarian cancer: find out more
- Breast cancer: find out more
- Talk: health
- Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust