Cervical cancer

Cervical cancer happens in the cervix. The cervix is part of a woman’s reproductive system and connects the womb, or uterus, with the vagina.

Types of cervical cancers

There are different types of cervical cancer, but the two main types are:

  • Squamous cell cervical cancer, which forms on the cells that cover the outside of the cervix
  • Adenocarcinoma, which forms in cells that line the inside of the cervix.

If you or your child has been diagnosed with a different type of cervical cancer, talk to your specialist for more information about that particular cancer and its treatment.

What are the symptoms?

The most common symptom of cervical cancer is unusual bleeding from your vagina. This might include bleeding between your periods, or during or after sex.

How is it diagnosed?

Cervical cancer is usually diagnosed after a test in hospital called a colposcopy, which examines your cervix more closely.

You may also have a biopsy, where a small amount of your tissue is removed to be checked for cancer cells.

You may have further tests if your specialist thinks that your cancer, in the form of a tumour, or lump, may have spread.

The specialist will be able to work out the stage of cancer from these tests. The stage is the size of the tumour and whether it has spread to other parts of your body.

How is it treated?

Cervical cancer is normally treated with surgery and radiotherapy but may also include chemotherapy. Your exact treatment will depend on how far the tumour has spread, so it’s best to talk to your specialist for further information.

Some of the treatment options available may affect you or your child’s ability to get pregnant, such as certain surgical operations and if you have a course of radiotherapy to this area.

What happens after treatment?

Your specialists will do everything they can to keep your ability – or your child’s ability – to have children. But the most important thing will need to be fighting the cancer.

If your or your child’s treatment for cervical cancer does affect your or their ability to have children, it’s important you talk this through with your specialist or nurse.

You will still need to attend an outpatient clinic regularly so your specialist can check your progress and make sure your cancer hasn’t come back. This will usually involve a physical examination.

Many people don’t have long-term health problems following treatment, but some do. Talk to your specialist about the potential long-term side effects of your treatment.

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