The cervix sits at the bottom part of the womb (uterus) and joins up to the top of the vagina. Cancer that occurs in the cervix is called cervical cancer and it mainly affects women between the ages of 30 - 45 years.
Cervical cancer originates from abnormal cell changes within the cervix, sometimes this type of cancer can be caught early from cervical screening tests, women in the UK have these carried out annually from the age of 25. These tests are also referred to as smear tests. Any abnormal cells that are caught through screening can be treated before they develop into cancerous cells.
Types of cervical cancer
There are various types of cervical cancer, with some being more common than others. These include:
- Squamous cell cancer – this type accounts for 70-80% of cervical cancer cases
- Adenocarcinoma- cancer that starts in the gland cells that produce mucus and accounts for 20% of cervical cancer cases
- Adenosquamous carcinoma – a very rare type of tumour that consists of both glandular and squamous cancer cells
- Small cell – a very rare type of cervical cancer that occurs on 3% of cases
- Sarcoma –a very rare type that develops in the muscle tissue, blood or fat vessels
Abnormal cells that are not yet cancerous, may not cause any symptoms. However, if these abnormal cells continue to develop into cervical cancer, common symptoms may include:
- Bleeding from the vagina between periods, after sex, or after the menopause
- Bleeding in between periods or heavier periods than usual
If you experience any of the above symptoms between cervical screening appointments, please don’t hesitate to book an appointment with GP.
Your GP will discuss your symptoms and give you a thorough physical examination. Further tests to diagnose cervical cancer may include:
- An internal examination
- Blood tests
- Colposcopy: a cervix examination where a sample of cells may be taken
- Cone biopsy: a procedure where a cone shape of tissue is taken from the womb
- CT, pelvis, MRI, and PET-CT scans