The early signs of cervical cancer: what to look out for
There are often no symptoms associated with having abnormal cervical cells or even with early stage cervical cancer.
However, in some cases, there are some recognised symptoms linked to the disease that you should be aware of:
- bleeding at any other time, other than your expected monthly period
- bleeding after or during sex
- bleeding after the menopause
- unusual and/or unpleasant smelling vaginal discharge
- discomfort or pain during sex
Cervical cancer symptoms on NHS Choices website
What to do if you have symptoms
If you are experiencing one or more of these symptoms listed, it needs to be investigated by your GP. We understand you might find it embarrassing, but it's very important you see your GP as soon as possible. Usually these symptoms won't mean you have cancer, but if you are found to have cancer, getting it diagnosed and treated early can mean you are more likely to survive.
Screening isn't used to investigate symptoms. In fact, a screening test could come back as negative and may lead your doctor into a false sense of security such that he/she doesn't refer you to a specialist at the gynaecology clinic at the hospital.
Reducing your risk of cervical cancer
You can reduce your risk of cervical cancer by:
- having regular cervical screening from age 25
- seeing your GP immediately if you have any of the symptoms listed above
- stopping smoking (smoking tobacco makes it harder for the body to get rid of HPV infections, so quitting is a good idea)
- having the HPV vaccination when you're 12 to 13 years old - the vaccine is offered at this age as it's most effective when your cervix hasn't been exposed to HPV infection through sexual contact
- reducing the number of sexual partners you have
- always using a condom to protect yourself from infections including HPV
Cervical screening and who it's for
Stop smoking with the Help2Quit stop smoking service
Using condoms to protect yourself
Cervical cancer prevention on NHS Choices website