Cervical cancer

Around 3,000 cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed each year in the UK.

Signs and symptoms

Cervical cancer often has no symptoms in its early stages. If you have symptoms, the most common is unusual vaginal bleeding, which can occur after sex, in-between periods or after the menopause.

Other symptoms

  • Pain and discomfort during sex
  • An unpleasant smelling vaginal discharge
  • Unusual vaginal bleeding

If you have any type of unusual vaginal bleeding, visit your GP for advice.

Cervical screening (smear test)

Each year around five million women in the UK are invited for cervical screening (smear test). Cervical screening is NOT a test to find cancer. It is a screening test to detect abnormalities (pre-cancer) at an early stage in the cells in the cervix.

The NHS offers a national screening programme open to all women from the age of 25. During screening, a small sample of cells is taken from the cervix and checked under a microscope for abnormalities. This test is commonly referred to as a cervical smear test.
An abnormal smear test does not mean you definitely have cancer, as most abnormal results are caused by an infection or the presence of treatable precancerous cells rather than cancer itself.

It is recommended that women who are between the ages of 25 and 49 are screened every three years, and women between the ages of 50 and 64 are screened every five years. You should be sent a letter telling you when your screening appointment is due. Contact your GP if you think that you may be overdue for a screening appointment.

Please take up your invitation to attend your cervical screening test, it saves lives.

Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust

A national charity, Jo’s Trust has a range of resources that you can access as well as an online support page and discussion forum.

Website: jostrust.org.uk
Telephone: 0808 802 8000


Cervical cancer vaccine (HPV vaccination)

All girls aged 12 to 13 are offered HPV (human papilloma virus) vaccination as part of the NHS childhood vaccination programme. The vaccine protects against cervical cancer. It’s usually given to girls in year eight at schools in England.

The HPV vaccine is delivered largely through secondary schools, and consists of two injections over a period of 12 months (up until September 2014 girls eligible for the vaccine were given three injections). The two doses will be given at least six, and not more than 24 months apart.