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Dyspareunia is a painful symptom of cervical cancer

Cervical cancer: Expert discusses 'main symptoms' of condition

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There are more than 3,000 cervical cancer diagnoses made every year in the UK, with those aged between 30 and 34 most at risk. It can be found anywhere in the cervix, which is the opening between the womb and vagina. While it does not often display symptoms in its early stages, there are certain warning signs that could prove life saving if dealt with as soon as possible.

Professor Jay Chatterjee, consultant gynae-oncologist at The Lister Hospital, spoke with to explain more.

He said: “Cervical cancer is diagnosed when there is presence of cancerous cells in the cervix.

“This is an opening between the vagina and the womb and is part of the reproductive system.

“Nearly all cervical cancers are caused by an infection from certain strains of human papillomaviruses (HPV).

“However, reassuringly, cervical cancer can be prevented by attending cervical screening appointments, commonly known as smear tests.

“This is because cervical screening can detect HPV and abnormal cells.

“This can then be treated early on usually in the precancerous stage, to prevent the development of cervical cancer.”

One symptom of cervical cancer Mr Chatterjee warned of was dyspareunia.

This is the medical term for pain or discomfort during and after sexual intercourse.

Cancer Research UK advises seeing your doctor “straight away” if you experience this.

As well as pain during sex, you might experience bleeding after sex as a sign of cancer.

However, it can have other causes.

Cancer Research UK explains: “Bleeding after sex isn’t necessarily a sign of cervical cancer. It’s often caused by something called a cervical erosion or ectropion.

“A cervical erosion means that the cells that are normally inside the cervical canal (glandular cells) can be seen on the outside surface of the cervix.

“Cervical erosion is nothing to do with cancer. It’s harmless and often goes away by itself or by changing contraception. Sometimes it might need treatment.

But it warns: “As cervical cancer can also cause bleeding after sex, it is always sensible to get any unusual bleeding checked by your doctor.”

According to Mr Chatterjee, other more common symptoms of cervical cancer include:

  • Unusual vaginal bleeding
  • Having inexplicably heavier or irregular periods than usual
  • Changes to vaginal discharge
  • Pain in your lower back, in the pelvic and hip area, or in your lower abdomen at late stages
  • Urinary symptoms of blood in your pee, incomplete emptying of bladder and repeated urinary infections.

Other less common signs include:

  • Constipation and changes to the bowel movements
  • Feeling vaginal pain
  • A griping pain in the abdomen
  • Tiredness, and feeling generally unwell
  • Swollen lymph glands
  • Bleeding during bowel movement.

If you experience any of these symptoms you should see your GP.

It is also important to attend smear tests when notified by the NHS.

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