Cervical cancer is common in women or people who have a cervix and are over the age of 30. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), long-term infection with certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV) is the leading cause of cervical cancer. Perhaps more importantly, most cases can be prevented by attending cervical screening.
These screenings are all the more important because cervical cancer may not cause any signs or symptoms in its early stages. Advanced cervical cancer can cause lower back pain, bleeding, or vaginal discharge, especially after sex, between periods, or after menopause. However, these symptoms can also be caused by other conditions, such as fibroids or endometriosis.
However, with the 3,200 people in the UK who are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year, it is important that these symptoms are checked. Currently, in England and Northern Ireland, women between the ages of 25 and 64 are invited to have a cervical swab every three years, and women over 50 every five years up to the age of 64. The test itself should take less than five minutes.
The swab test now tests for the HPV virus instead of testing for abnormal cells in the cervix because the presence of HPV can help predict whether a person may be at risk of developing cervical cancer. If a person is diagnosed with HPV, the sample is examined for signs of abnormal cells, which may indicate cervical cancer or precancerous cells. For women who test negative for HPV, no further testing is required and you can await your next swab.