Cervical cancer symptoms: signs to watch out for, treatments and when is Cervical Screening Awareness Week?

Cervical screening (a smear test) checks the health of your cervix

Cervical Screening Awareness Week takes place every year, aiming to raise awareness of cervical screening.

But when is it this year and what are the symptoms of cervical cancer?

Cervical screening (a smear test) checks the health of your cervix

Here’s what you need to know.

What is cervical cancer?

Cervical cancer is a cancer that’s found anywhere in the cervix, which is the opening between the vagina and the womb.

Nearly all cervical cancers are caused by an infection from certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV) and it can often be prevented by attending cervical screening, which aims to find and treat changes to cells before they turn into cancer.

According to the NHS, cervical cancer usually grows very slowly and how serious it is depends on how big it is, if it has spread and your general health.

What are the symptoms of cervical cancer?

Symptoms of cervical cancer include:

  • vaginal bleeding that’s unusual for you – including bleeding during or after sex, between your periods or after the menopause, or having heavier periods than usual
  • changes to your vaginal discharge
  • pain during sex
  • pain in your lower back, between your hip bones (pelvis), or in your lower tummy

If you have another condition like fibroids or endometriosis, you may get symptoms like these on a regular basis.

You might find you get used to them, but it’s important to be checked by a GP if your symptoms change, get worse, or do not feel normal for you.

What is cervical screening?

Cervical screening (a smear test) checks the health of your cervix. It’s not a test for cancer, it’s a test to help prevent cancer.

All women and people with a cervix aged 25 to 64 should be invited by letter.

During the screening appointment, a small sample of cells will be taken from your cervix and the sample is then checked for certain types of HPV that can cause changes to the cells of your cervix called "high risk" types of HPV.

If these types of HPV are not found, you do not need any further tests.

If these types of HPV are found, the sample is then checked for any changes in the cells of your cervix. These can then be treated before they get a chance to turn into cervical cancer.

You will get your results by letter, usually in about two weeks after your appointment, which will explain what happens next.

What is the treatment for cervical cancer?

Cervical cancer is often treatable, but the treatment you have will depend on:

  • the size and type of cervical cancer you have
  • where the cancer is
  • if it has spread
  • your general health

Treatment options will usually include surgery, chemotherapy or radiotherapy, but it may also include treatment with targeted medicines to treat the cancer.

When is Cervical Cancer Screening Week 2022?

Cervical Cancer Screening Week takes place from Monday 20 to Sunday 26 June 2022.

Charity Jo’s Trust will be sharing tips, experiences and working with experts throughout the awareness week to help those who find cervical screening difficult.

The charity will be focusing on a different topic each day, with expert blogs, charity guidance and personal stories from the Jo’s community and beyond.

These are the topics Jo’s Trust has planned for the awareness week:

  • Monday 20 June - Work commitments 
  • Tuesday 21 June - Pain 
  • Wednesday 22 June - How do you feel?  
  • Thursday 23 June - Screening after sexual violence 
  • Friday 24 June - Physical and learning disabilities 
  • Saturday 25th June – What’s next?