How to prevent cervical cancer

Worldwide, an estimated 604,127 women were diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2020, according to data from Cervical cancer incidence rates dropped by more than 50% between the mid-1970s and mid-2000s due, in part, to increased use of tests, which can detect cervical changes before they become cancerous.

Cervical cancer can be found in any part of the cervix. Almost all cervical cancers result from an infection caused by certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV). Cervical cancer usually grows very slowly. The severity depends on its size, whether it has spread, and your overall health.

Demystifying cervical cancer

The preventive exam of the cervix (Pap smear) is one of the best ways to protect against cervical cancer. The test checks the health of the cervix (the opening between the vagina and uterus). The NHS cervical cancer prevention program has reduced the number of deaths from cervical cancer by up to 70% since its introduction more than three decades ago, according to data from Cancer Research UK.

Who is eligible for the cervical screening test?

Screening is available to women and people with a cervix aged between 25 and 64 in the UK. All eligible patients registered with a family physician will automatically receive an invitation by mail. Transgender men do not receive the automatic invitation if registered with the family doctor as a male, but they are encouraged to take the test.

Signs & Symptoms

It’s essential to monitor the signs and symptoms your body presents. The cause could be a medical condition other than cancer, so seeking medical attention is necessary if signs and symptoms persist. Any of the following could be symptoms or signs of cervical cancer:

  • Spotting blood or light bleeding between or after periods
  • Menstrual bleeding is longer and heavier than normal
  • Bleeding after intercourse, douching, or pelvic exam
  • Increased vaginal discharge
  • Pain during sexual intercourse
  • Bleeding after menopause
  • Unexplained and persistent pelvic and/or back pain

The sooner precancerous cells or cervical cancer are found and treated, the better the chance cancer can be prevented or cured.

What happens during your consultation?

A nurse usually does the Pap smear. The full consultation takes approximately 10 minutes. You will need to undress, in privacy, from the waist down. You will be given a disposable paper to place over yourself during the test. The nurse will ask you to lie on a bed, usually with your knees bent and apart and your feet together. They will gently place a small tube (speculum) into your vagina. A small amount of lubricant can be used. The nurse will open the speculum so they can see your cervix. She will use a soft brush to collect a small sample of cells from your cervix. The speculum will be removed, and you can get dressed. You may have some bleeding afterwards, which is entirely normal.


For more info, keep reading our blog post: HPV and Cervical Cancer.