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Cervical cancer commonly occurs in women or anyone who has a cervix and is over the age of 30. According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), long-lasting infection with certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV) is the main cause of cervical cancer. Perhaps more importantly, most cases can be prevented by attending cervical screening.
These screenings are even more important as cervical cancer in its early stages may not cause any signs or symptoms. Advanced cervical cancer may cause pain in the lower back, bleeding or discharge from the vagina, particularly after sex, between periods or after menopause. However these symptoms could be caused by other conditions such as fibroids or endometriosis.
However, with 3,200 individuals in the UK diagnosed with cervical cancer every year, it is important for individuals to get these symptoms checked. Currently in England and Northern Ireland women between the ages of 25 and 64 are invited for a cervical smear test every three years, with those over 50 invited every five years until they turn 64. The test itself should take less than five minutes.
The smear test now tests for the HPV virus instead of testing for abnormal cells in the cervix as the presence of HPV can help predict whether a person may be at risk of developing cervical cancer. If a person is found to have HPV, the sample is checked for signs of abnormal cells that may indicate cervical cancer or pre-cancerous cells. For women who test negative for HPV, there is no need for further testing and you can await your next smear test.
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