Lisa Maffia discusses her 'cervical cancer' diagnosis
The neck of the womb (i.e. the cervix) connects the womb and vagina inside a woman’s body – it’s where a baby passes through before it’s born. Cervical cancer occurs when abnormal cells multiply in the cervix.
Cancer Research UK pointed out that unusual vaginal bleeding is a sign of cervical cancer.
What’s classified as “abnormal” vaginal bleeding?
Abnormal vaginal bleeding occurs “at times other than when you’re having a period”. Examples include:
- Between periods
- During or after sex (post coitus)
- At any time after your menopause
Other signs of cervical cancer include:
- Discomfort or pain during sex
- A vaginal discharge that smells unpleasant
- Pain in the area between the hip bones (pelvis)
What causes cervical cancer?
The Eve Appeal charity said that nearly all squamous cervical cancers are caused by a “common sexually transmitted infection (STI) called human papillomavirus (HPV)”.
The charity emphasises that HPV is extremely common, around 80 percent of people will come in contact with it at some stage of their life.
Usually, the immune system will be able to clear up the infection without any need for treatment.
HPV is a group of viruses; there are more than 100 different types spread through skin-to-skin sexual contact.
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This means people don’t need to engage in penetrative sex in order for HPV to be transmitted.
Should the body be unable to clear the virus, there is a risk of abnormal cells developing, which can become cancerous over time.
Am I at risk of cervical cancer?
People at risk of developing cervical cancer must have a cervix, such as:
- Trans men who haven’t had a total hysterectomy
“People with a cervix who smoke are twice as likely to develop cervical cancer as those who don’t,” said The Eve Appeal.
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Smoking is thought to reduce the effectiveness of the immune system, meaning the body may struggle to clear a HPV infection.
Those on immunosuppression drugs for a long time can also be at an increased risk of retaining the HPV virus.
In the UK, people with a cervix between the ages of 25 to 64 should be invited for a free NHS cervical screening (i.e. a smear test).
This invitation usually arrives by letter, so it’s vital to be registered to a local GP’s office, alongside updated contact details.
The NHS added that the smear test isn’t a test for cancer, “it’s a test to help prevent cancer”.
During the physical examination, cells in the cervix are checked for “high-risk” types of HPV.
A small sample from the cervix may also be checked for any abnormal cells.
People should receive their results via a letter two weeks after their appointment.
For more information and support about going for cervical screening, results and treatment, you can contact Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust; their helpline is available on 0808 802 8000.
The Eve Appeal charity wanted to stress that the prospect of a complete cure is good for cervical cancer diagnosed at an early stage.
However, “this decreases the further the cancer has grown into or around the cervix”.
This highlights the importance of a regular smear test to identify anything troubling sooner.
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