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The HPV vaccine cannot get rid of an HPV infection you already have. However, it does prevent infection with other types of HPV and prevents reinfection with the same type. So if you already have HPV it could still benefit you to have the vaccine.
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Yes, the vaginal tissues are very stretchy; this means that although the top part of the vagina is removed, you will be able to have full intercourse, usually without any difficulties. Most people say that they do not notice any difference (however women who have had radiotherapy will notice some changes to the vagina after treatment). The most common changes a woman may feel are: the absence of the uterus moving during orgasm – this does not make the orgasm less pleasurable – and if the ovaries have been removed and no HRT has been taken the vaginal tissues may feel a little dry. HRT or a vaginal lubricant should be helpful. The cervix also provides some lubrication and removing the cervix, even if the ovaries have been left behind can lead to vaginal dryness. A water-based lubricant of vaginal moisturiser should help address this.
Psycho-sexual issues – how a woman (or her partner) feel about their body or/and about sex may affect their arousal and, therefore, their satisfaction with intercourse. If this is a problem all women who have had a treatment for a cervical cancer should be able to see a psycho-sexual counsellor to discuss it further. You can arrange an appointment via your GP, your hospital consultant or specialist nurse. Please see the Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust website pages on sex and intimacy for further information about possible changes to your sex life after hysterectomy and where to find help.
Cell changes are treated at colposcopy. You may be offered treatment:
You usually have treatment as an outpatient. This means you have it at the colposcopy clinic in the hospital, but can come home the same day.
There are different treatments for cell changes. The treatment you have will depend on:
Every colposcopist and nurse colposcopist has the same training. They sometimes go by different titles because of their background:
You may also meet a nurse (sometimes called a colposcopy nurse), who assists during your appointment. They do not do the examination or treatment.
If you have had treatment for cell changes (abnormal cells) or cervical cancer, having the HPV vaccine may lower your risk of new HPV infections and recurrence. More research needs to be done, but it could benefit you to have the HPV vaccine. Ultimately, it is your choice whether to have the HPV vaccine.
Having the HPV vaccine protects against at least two high-risk types of HPV (16 and 18) that cause about 7 in 10 (70%) of all cervical cancers. Along with going to cervical screening (a smear test) when invited, it is one of the best ways to protect against cervical cancer.
The lymph nodes are part of the body’s fluid drainage (lymphatic) system which helps its natural defences (immune system) to fight off infections. These nodes are all over your body, but the nodes that are affected by cervical cancer tend to be those in the pelvis. While lymph nodes can be seen with an MRI scans, you cannot tell for certain if lymph nodes are free from cancer unless you remove them and look at them under the microscope.
You will likely experience some discomfort or pain after having lymph nodes removed, which will be managed by your health care team with painkillers. Your immune system is not compromised with the removal of lymph nodes.
There is a small risk that you could experience some swelling in the area of one or both of your legs, called lymphoedema, after the operation.
Anyone! Take on the challenge by yourself, get a group of friends together or get your colleagues involved and walk/run as part of team. You don’t have to do it all in one day, you can even spread the distance across a few days.
Anybody who ever has sexual contact has a risk of getting HPV. The HPV types that cause cervical cancer are called high-risk HPV. They can be passed on through:
HPV is most common in young, sexually active people, usually between the ages of 16 and 25.
If you have been diagnosed with cervical cancer, you have an increased risk of developing another cancer linked to high-risk HPV. This can be upsetting or worrying, but we currently do not have much data on how big this risk is. If you need support or have questions, speak with your doctor or call our Helpline on 0808 802 8000.
After your colposcopy examination, your colposcopist will try to give you as much information as they can. But they will usually need to get the results of a biopsy before you get your full results.
Remember, most people who go to colposcopy do not have cervical cancer. If you have any questions or worries, there is time before and after your colposcopy examination to talk about these.
Most cell changes (abnormal cells) and cervical cancers are caused by HPV. Almost all of us (4 out of 5 or 80%) will get HPV at some point in their lives, but less than 1 in 10 of us will need further tests after cervical screening. This is because some people’s immune system gets rid of HPV very quickly, before they develop cell changes.
We know that smoking can increase the risk of cell changes and makes it harder for our immune system to get rid of HPV. So if you smoke, stopping might help.
Remember, being invited for further tests does not mean you have cervical cancer.
After LLETZ, your colposcopist may recommend avoiding the following until any side effects stop:
Side effects usually last about 4 weeks. Remember, not everyone heals at the same speed and side effects can vary. If you are worried about anything, speak with your colposcopist or GP.
HPV vaccines have the potential to save lives by reducing:
For women who are already part of the screening programme, the best protection against cervical cancer is to go for regular cervical screening (smear tests).
The HPV vaccine is free to people between the ages of:
The HPV vaccine is offered in schools between 11 and 13 (Scotland) and 12 and 13 (rest of the UK). If you are under 18 and miss it in school, you can have it free at your GP.
If you are 18 or older, you can pay to have the HPV vaccine privately. It is usually available at some pharmacies, travel clinics and other health centres. It costs about £150 per dose. You may also be able to have it at your GP, although you may have to pay an extra administration fee.
Lymphoedema is the accumulation of lymphatic fluid that cannot drain away normally. It is not dangerous, but can be uncomfortable as one or both legs can swell.
You are at risk of developing lymphoedema if you have had to have any lymph nodes removed, and it is more likely to happen if you have had radiotherapy to the pelvic area as well as surgery. If you do develop this you should report it to your GP, consultant or specialist nurse. They will confirm that it is lymphoedema and then refer you to a specialist who will advise you how to ensure the lymphoedema is kept to a minimum. This includes massage, exercise, and wearing a tight elastic sleeve or stocking. Before your operation do ask your specialist nurse what you should do to help prevent lymphoedema occurring after the operation, what signs to look for and what services are available should you develop it. Your surgeon may also put a small drainage tube in place during your surgery to help reduce the build up of this fluid, which will be removed a few days later.
We ask for participants to raise £120 each. Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust relies on donations to be able to continue with our services and information, supporting people affected by cervical cancer. The fundraising team are here to help you every step of the way from the moment you sign up until after the event. Get in touch by emailing [email protected] for ideas and any help you may need.
Having safe sex by using condoms or dental dams helps reduce the risk of getting HPV, but it does not completely get rid of the risk. HPV lives on the skin in and around the whole genital area, not just the part you are covering!
In men, genital HPV affects the:
In women, genital HPV affects the:
During colposcopy, a small piece of cervical tissue may be taken. This is called a punch biopsy.
The sample of cervical tissue is sent to a laboratory to test:
Sometimes, your colposcopist will take more than one punch biopsy. This makes sure the results are as accurate as possible.
It is your choice whether to go for cervical screening, whatever your age. If you are not sure whether to go, think about the benefits and any risks.
Along with the HPV vaccine, going for cervical screening when you are invited is the best way to protect against cervical cancer. But there are lots of reasons you may not want to have the test, including discomfort if you are going through or have been through the menopause. If you are anxious for any reason, we have lots of information about how to make cervical screening better for you, so you can make an informed decision about your health.
HPV triage and HPV primary screening both involve testing the sample of cells collected during the cervical screening test for high-risk HPV as well as examining the cells under a microscope (cytology). The order in which the HPV testing and cytology is done is where they differ.
With HPV triage, cytology is done first. Then HPV testing is done on any samples that come back with a cytology result of borderline or low grade cell changes (dyskaryosis). If no high-risk HPV infection is found during this test, the risk of the abnormalities turning into cancer is very low so the women will be returned to normal screening routine.
With HPV primary screening, the high-risk HPV test is done first and only if a high-risk HPV infection is found will cytology be done. If the results of the cytology are abnormal, at that point the woman will be referred to colposcopy, if they are normal she will be retested in 12 months.
HPV triage is currently used in both England and Northern Ireland in addition to cytology as part of the NHS screening programme. HPV primary screening will now replace the current cervical screening test across England.
After LLETZ, side effects can last for about 4 weeks, so it is best not to have penetrative vaginal sex. This includes:
The general rule is don’t put anything in your vagina while you have any side effects. If you want to have anal sex or clitoral stimulation, this shouldn’t make any side effects worse.
If you are worried or have specific questions, it is best to speak to your colposcopist before treatment. Or you could speak to your GP, who knows your full medical history.
The organs and tissues on our body are made up of cells. Cells in different parts of the body may look and work differently but most reproduce themselves in the same way. Most of the cells in our body live for a period of time and are then gradually replaced with new cells. Our body has the ability to identify cells that have not been made properly and then correct any defects. This allows the cell to return to being a fully working, normal cell again.
If the body cannot correct an abnormal cell, then there is a mechanism in place to kill the cell. Sometimes these abnormal cells cannot be fixed or 'killed off'. They develop and grow without your body’s control. Sometimes they grow into a collection of abnormal cells called a tumour. Tumours can be benign or malignant.
Benign tumours are not cancerous because they do not spread to beyond the original tumour growth area; however, they may still cause problems by pressing on the surrounding organs. They can be removed by an operation and do not usually cause any further problems.
A malignant tumour is a growth (group) of cancer cells. Cancer is a general term to describe uncontrolled, abnormal growth and division of cells. Malignant tumours have the ability to spread beyond the original tumour growth area. Cancer cells have the ability to travel from one part of the body to another via the blood or lymphatic system (a system of thin tubes and nodes that is part of the body’s immune system). Newly formed tumours are called metastasis or secondary cancer. Cancer cells are also able to invade and destroy other tissue around them. Nowadays many cancers are caught before they have spread.
Even if your child or someone you know is not sexually active yet, having the HPV vaccine will protect them against certain HPV types for at least a decade. By that time, they may be sexually active and, if not, having the vaccine won’t cause them any harm.
If, after initial treatment, your cancer comes back in the pelvic area, it may be possible to have an operation called a pelvic exenteration. This is usually only offered after chemoradiotherapy has been given. Pelvic exenteration is a major operation that involves removing all of the structures in the pelvic area and can include the cervix, uterus (womb), vagina, ovaries, bladder and the lower end of the large bowel (rectum). If all of these structures are removed it is called a total exenteration. If the bladder is removed but the bowel and rectum are left it is called an anterior exenteration and if the bladder is left and the bowels and rectum are removed it is called a posterior exenteration. Pelvic exenteration surgery is only suitable for a small number of women and you will need to have various investigations and scans to see if it is possible for you.
The operation can vary depending on the extent of the cancer and which organs are affected. Part of the operation involves creating one or two openings (stomas) on the abdominal wall. These are needed because the operation can involve removing the bladder, the bowel and rectum, or both. This means you will need either one or two stoma bags: one to collect your bowel motions and/or one for urine. These stomas are known as a colostomy (bowel motions) and a urostomy (urine). In some centres, instead of having a urostomy they may offer you a procedure called a continent urinary diversion. This is where a pouch or reservoir is made instead of an opening attached to a bag. This means you yourself have control of when you empty your new bladder. This procedure is not offered at all cancer centres and your gynae-oncologist will discuss this option with you if it is available.
Before pelvic exenteration you will see a nurse who specialises in the care of people with stomas (a stoma nurse). The nurse will explain all about stomas and how to look after them and can answer any questions you may have. The stoma nurse will also visit you after the operation to help you.
The operation may also involve making (reconstructing) a new vagina. Your medical team will be able to discuss this with you in detail.
A pelvic exenteration is a big operation, and many women find that recovery can be difficult, both physically and emotionally. It is important that you understand exactly how the operation may affect you so it is a good idea to talk to your surgeon or specialist nurse. They can support you in deciding whether pelvic exenteration is right for you.
You may find it helpful to join our online Forum community. There are other women who have gone through pelvic exenteration who are willing to share their stories and help support you through your surgery and recovery. There is also a closed forum there specifically for women with who are living with advanced cervical cancer.
If you are being offered or have had pelvic exenteration surgery and you are looking to connect with other women who have been through this, please contact us at [email protected] and we will do our best to put you in touch with someone.
Cervical screening (a smear test) is a test that helps prevent cervical cancer. It identifies people who have a higher risk of developing it, so they can get the care they need.
A sample of cells is taken from your cervix and tested for cell changes (abnormal cells) caused by high-risk human papillomavirus (HPV). These changes can then be monitored or treated to prevent a cervical cancer developing.
Along with the HPV vaccine, cervical screening is the best way to protect against cervical cancer.
We don't have a definite answer to this question. In theory, if you and your partner have been infected with one type of HPV, you should now be immune to that type. This means you should not get it again.
However, studies have shown that natural immunity to HPV is poor and women and people with a cervix can be reinfected with the same HPV type.
In some cases, some people will not get the same type of HPV again, but in some cases other people will get the same type of HPV again.
We know this uncertainly can be hard, but it may help to be aware of symptoms and go for cervical screening (a smear test) when you are invited. If you are worried, speak with your doctor. Remember, we are also here to support you. Call our Helpline on 0808 802 8000, join our online forum to speak with others affected or use our Ask the Expert service.
Everyone’s experience of a punch biopsy is different. Some people do not feel anything, while others find it uncomfortable. It may feel tender or ache during and after the biopsy.
Remember, you are in control during colposcopy, so let your colposcopist know if it hurts. They will be able to give you the right support.
If you are 65 or over, you will stop being invited for cervical screening if you have had 3 normal results in a row. This makes it very unlikely that you will develop cervical cancer. If your recent cervical screenings results were abnormal, you will continue to be invited for follow up until the cells go back to normal.
If you are 65 or older and have never been for cervical screening, you are entitled to have one. You can speak with your GP surgery about booking an appointment.
The most important thing is to be aware of the symptoms of cervical cancer. The symptoms can be caused by things other than cervical cancer, but whatever your age, see your doctor if you have any.
In the current cervical screening the sample of cells that is collected from the cervix is first examined under a microscope (cytology) to look for any abnormalities. If you live in England or Northern Ireland and this cytology shows borderline or low grade squamous dyskaryosis, your sample may then be tested for a high-risk HPV infection. If an infection is found (high-risk HPV positive) then you will be sent to colposcopy. If not (high-risk HPV negative) you will be returned to the normal screening program.
With HPV primary screening the cervical screening sample is tested for the presences of high-risk HPV first. If the sample is high-risk HPV positive (high-risk HPV infection has been found) then cytology will be used to check for cervical abnormalities. If abnormalities are seen you will be sent to colposcopy for further examination. If you are HPV positive but no cervical abnormalities are found in cytology then you will be rescreened again in 12 months time. If you are high-risk HPV negative (no infection found) then you will be returned to the normal screening programme, because without the presence of high-risk HPV there is virtually no chance of going on to develop cervical cancer.
After LLETZ, it is important to listen to your body and take any time you need to rest. We all heal at different rates, so what feels right for someone else may not be right for you.
You can exercise as soon as you feel ready. Remember, any side effects usually last for about 4 weeks, so you may want to avoid heavy exercise during that time. If you do exercise, any bleeding may be a little heavier afterward.
If you have any worries or want to ask about a specific exercise, you can speak with your colposcopist before LLETZ. Or you can ask your GP, who knows your full medical history.
There are two main types of cervical cancer:
Adenosquamous cancers are tumours that contain both squamous and glandular cancer cells. Other rare types of cervical cancer can include clear cell, small cell neuroendocrine carcinomas, lymphomas and sarcomas.
HPV is a common virus that is passed on through skin-to-skin contact. There are over 200 types of HPV.
Most HPV types don’t cause any problems and our immune system gets rid of them – we may not even know we had it. Some low-risk types can cause conditions like genital warts. A few other types, called high-risk HPV, can cause changes to the cells of the cervix (abnormalities), which may develop into cervical cancer.
We have more information about HPV.
After LLETZ, you may have some side effects of the treatment:
We all heal differently, but if you are worried about or struggling with any side effects, speak with your GP so they can give you the right care.
If you have a biopsy at colposcopy, you may have some side effects, including:
These side effects may last for a few days, but shouldn’t last very long or get worse. If any effects do get worse, tell your colposcopist or GP.
If you were treated at colposcopy, you may have different effects depending on the treatment you had. Large loop excision of the transformation zone (LLETZ) is the most common treatment.
Everyone’s experience of cervical screening is different – something that still applies during or after menopause.
After menopause, the opening of the vagina and vagina walls may become smaller and less able to stretch. This can make putting the speculum into the vagina more uncomfortable.
For all of us, oestrogen levels in the body fall after menopause, which causes a condition called atrophic cervix. This just means that our cervical cells do not shed as easily, which may give an inadequate cervical screening result.
Although this can sound worrying, there are lots of things that may make cervical screening after menopause better for you, including:
Currently, the roll-out of HPV primary screening has been announced for both England and Wales. Both areas will go through an initial trial period and full roll out of the programme will happen in 2018/2019 in Wales, and 2019 in England.
If you live in Northern Island or Scotland you will not be offered HPV primary screening and your cervical screening (smear) test will still be examined under a microscope (cytology) to look for cervical abnormalities directly.
It is usually safer to wait for about 4 weeks after treatment before flying. This is because any side effects will usually have stopped by then.
If you have a holiday planned soon after your treatment, speak with your colposcopist beforehand. They can give the best advice about your situation.
Sometimes during the early stages of cervical cancer there may not be symptoms. However, there are some recognised symptoms associated with cervical cancer that you should be aware of, including:
If you are experiencing any or all of these symptoms or are concerned about any new symptom you should make an appointment to see your GP as soon as possible. Remember, these symptoms can be associated with many other conditions that are not cancer related.
Not all women diagnosed with cervical cancer experienced symptoms, which makes attending regular cervical screening even more important.
As cancer develops, it can cause further symptoms including:
The time from getting HPV to developing genital warts, cell changes (abnormal cells) or cervical cancer varies.
Although most of us clear HPV within 2 years, it can stay in the body for many years, even decades, without causing any problems (clinically insignificant). But in some people, HPV may start causing problems (become clinically significant) again, which makes it difficult to find out exactly when you got HPV or who you got it from.
Radiotherapy cancer treatment uses high energy beams of radiation directed at the body, which destroy the cancer cells while doing as little harm as possible to normal cells. For cervical cancer radiotherapy can be given externally or internally (brachytherapy) and often you will be recommended to a combination of the two.
Steps for Jo’s is designed to be a challenge that everyone can take part in so the level of training you do before the event is up to you! It doesn’t matter if you’ve never done anything like this before or if you’re an experience walker or runner. We’ll be there to support you every step of the way and if you would like some tips and ideas for your training check out ‘NHS couch to 5k’ and ‘healthy eating’.
In the UK, anyone with a cervix between the ages of 25 and 64 is invited for cervical screening. People aged 25 to 49 are invited every 3 years and people aged 50 to 64 are invited every 5 years.
We don’t know much about HPV reinfection between couples, so there is a possibility that this could happen. But whether your partner has HPV and reinfects you will depend on whether their immune system can get rid of the infection.
Not everyone invited to colposcopy:
If you do need treatment, your colposcopist will tell you whether it will happen at your first appointment or whether you will be invited back.
Cervical cancer can be detected by taking a sample from the cervix, this is sometimes called a biopsy. This may be done because of an abnormal cervical screening (smear test) or you have symptoms of cervical cancer or during a pelvic examination your doctor sees something they are concerned about.
HPV infections are very common, with an estimated four out of five (80%) people worldwide contracting some type of the virus once in their life, and there are no symptoms associated with it. Therefore, it is very difficult to tell whether an individual is infected. HPV is transmitted primarily by skin-to-skin contact of the genital area, including genital-to-genital contact, vaginal and anal intercourse, and oral sex.
While it is not possible to fully protect yourself from high-risk HPV if you are or have ever been involved in any kind of sexual contact, there are some things you can do to help reduce your risk of getting high-risk HPV and developing a persistent infection:
Treatment for cell changes are usually successful. After treatment for cell changes:
It can be really upsetting if cell changes come back. But, just like before, you will have an expert team doing tests, monitoring or treatment.
Almost all cases of cervical cancer are caused by persistent high-risk human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is a very common infection, and four out of five sexually active adults will contract some type of the virus during their lives. HPV can cause abnormalities in the cells of the cervix which, if left untreated, can develop into cervical cancer over time. The virus itself does not have any symptoms, which is why it is so important to attend your regular cervical screening (smear test) appointments when invited so that any abnormalities caused by high-risk HPV can be caught early, before they are given a chance to develop into cervical cancer.
External beam radiotherapy is a treatment where high energy x-rays are directed from a machine outside of your body at the area of your cancer. This treatment is usually given in a hospital radiotherapy department in short doses on a daily basis for some weeks, with breaks at the weekend. The number of treatments you get will depend on the type, size and location of the cancer.
Internal radiotherapy, which is also called brachytherapy, is often given after a course of external radiotherapy has been given. In brachytherapy a controlled high dose of radiation is given directly next to the tumour. How it is given depends on whether or not you have had a hysterectomy. If a woman has not had a hysterectomy a thin tube is placed into the vagina and uterus and a radioactive ball (known as a source) is then fed into the tube so that it sits next to the tumour. If a woman has had a hysterectomy before beginning radiotherapy then either one or two tubes are put into her vagina and then the controlled dose of radiation will be given to the top of the vagina instead.
In both cases the length of time of the treatment can vary and your specialist nurse or clinical oncologist will give you more information on your individual treatment.
We have a range of materials available to help you with your fundraising. We can send you a fundraising pack in the post or you can see more of our resources here with lots of helpful tips.
We also have t-shirts and a range of merchandise available so you can step out in style! For more information on our fundraising resources please visit our resource centre.
Everyone has a different experience of cervical screening. The test should not be painful, but some people find it uncomfortable. Rarely, people may have mild pain, although this does not last for a long time. You may have some light bleeding (spotting) after the test, but this is common and should stop after a day or so.
If you feel any pain or discomfort during the procedure, tell the nurse and ask them to stop. Remember, you are in control.
In most cases, our immune system eventually clears HPV within 2 years.
But in some cases, HPV may stay in the body (persist) for years. Sometimes the HPV does not cause any harm (clinically insignificant), but sometimes it can cause cervical cell changes (abnormal cells). If HPV does this, it is clinically significant. Remember that this is rare and not what usually happens.
Many researchers say the chances of passing on HPV after the last time warts or cervical abnormalities were present reduces over time. This is not a definite answer, but it is likely that even when you have it, HPV does not always affect the body.
It may take 4 to 8 weeks to get colposcopy results. Your doctor (colposcopist) usually sends a letter with your results. If your results take longer than this, you can call the hospital or your colposcopist to check on them.
If your colposcopist thinks you may have cervical cancer, you may be offered a telephone call or be invited to the colposcopy clinic within 2 to 3 weeks to get your results.
Waiting for results can be a really anxious time, but remember we are here if you need any support.
Yes, HPV is the same virus. But the HPV types that cause genital warts and the HPV types that cause cervical cancer are different. The HPV types that cause genital warts are low risk, while the types that cause cervical cancer are high risk.
HPV 6 and 11 are the 2 most common low-risk types. They cause around 9 in 10 (90%) cases of genital warts. The Gardasil HPV vaccine that the NHS uses protects against HPV 6 and 11.
Remember, having genital warts does not mean that you are more likely to get cancer.
Most people with a healthy immune system will eventually clear a high-risk HPV infection (test negative). Around four out of every ten people (40%) affected by a high-risk HPV infection will clear it within 12 months (one year) and this increases to around six out of every ten people (60%) within two years . However, in a minority of people an infection can persist over many years and may result in recurrent abnormalities (though this is rare).
As most cell changes are linked to human papillomavirus (HPV), researchers have looked at whether there is a link between having cell changes and a higher risk of developing HPV-related cancers.
Most people with cell changes will not develop a HPV-related cancer. However, having cell changes is linked to an increased risk of developing cervical cancer and other HPV-related cancers, such as vulval, vaginal and anal cancer.
While this may sound scary, it is important to remember that each of these cancers makes up less than 1% of all cancers diagnosed every year in the UK. This means that even with an increased risk, the likelihood of developing one of these cancers is low.
If you are worried about cervical cancer, we are here to support you.
If you are worried about other HPV-related cancers or need more support, there are organisations that can help:
There is no treatment for HPV itself, but conditions it causes can be treated – for example, genital warts, cell changes (abnormal cells), or cervical cancer.
There are potential side effects with any treatment. The side effects with radiotherapy are less now than they used to be. This is because of the advancement of technology – treatments are more precise now. We also have more knowledge now as to how to prevent or minimise side effects during and after treatment.
The most common side effects are those to the vagina, bowel and bladder, and bones. The walls of the vagina may become more fragile with the blood vessels closer to the surface, which together can cause bleeding, vaginal tissues can become drier and less stretchy and the walls of the vagina can, in some circumstances, stick together. The radiotherapy staff will advise you about using vaginal dilators and lubricants designed to prevent or minimise these effects. Sexual intercourse can be continued during and after treatment. If discomfort is experienced during intercourse, speak to your specialist nurse or radiographer who will advise you further. Psycho-sexual issues – how a woman, (or her partner), feels about their body or/and about sex may affect arousal and therefore their satisfaction with intercourse. If this is a problem all women who have had a treatment for a cervical cancer should be able to see a psycho-sexual counsellor to discuss it further. You can arrange an appointment via your GP, your hospital consultant or specialist nurse. Please see the Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust website pages on sex and intimacy for further information about possible changes to your sex life after radiotherapy and where to find help.
Literally every penny helps Jo’s to continue to provide our services and information to support people affected by cervical cancer.
There is no difference between cervical screening and a smear test. They are two different names for the same test.
A smear test is the older name for the test. It was called that because of the way the test used to be done – cells were smeared on a glass slide, which was sent to the laboratory for testing.
The test is different now and most healthcare professionals call it cervical screening. Your letter will invite you to attend cervical screening, which is why we call it that in our information.
It's possible. In most cases, your immune system will eventually get rid of an HPV infection within 2 years. But HPV can stay in our bodies without causing any harm, although we don’t know a lot about this yet. Rarely, HPV that stays in the body can cause changes to the cells of the cervix (abnormalities).
Cervical screening does not diagnose cell changes (abnormal cells). It is a snapshot of cervical cells that suggest whether you need further tests.
Your colposcopy will usually look at a piece of your cervical tissue (taken by biopsy or treatment). It is a much more detailed look at your cervix. This means your colposcopy result may be different to your cervical screening result. Not everyone referred to colposcopy after cervical screening:
Yes, 2 of the 3 HPV vaccines protect against genital warts. Gardasil, which is used in schools, protects against:
Gardasil 9 also protects against genital warts. Cervarix does not protect against genital warts, but does protect against high-risk HPV types 16 and 18.
The HPV vaccine cannot get rid of an HPV infection you already have.
However, it does prevent infection with other types of HPV and prevents reinfection with the same type. So if you already have HPV it could still benefit you to have the vaccine.
Yes! All people with a cervix between age 25 and 64 can go for regular cervical screening, no matter their gender identity.
Most changes to the cells of the cervix (abnormal cells) are caused by persistent infection with HPV. As HPV can be passed on through skin-to-skin contact in the genital area, sexually active LGBTQ+ people are still at risk of getting it. Our immune system usually gets rid of HPV, but if it can’t, it may cause cell changes that can eventually develop into cervical cancer without the right monitoring or treatment. Going for cervical screening is the best way to protect against cervical cancer, along with having the HPV vaccine.
No, not necessarily. Chemotherapy and radiotherapy (known as chemo-radiotherapy) are often used together for an advanced cancer, but increasingly chemo-radiotherapy is being used for an early cancer. The chemotherapy appears, in some situations, to sensitise the cells, making the radiotherapy more effective.
5K is just over 3 miles. A 5K walk usually takes between 40-50 minutes but you can go at your own pace and take all the time you need. You may like to have a leisurely walk with your family or perhaps you want to try and get your best time!
You will get a letter inviting you for cervical screening from the GP surgery you are registered with. You can call them to book a cervical screening appointment.
If you don’t want to have the test done at your GP surgery, in some areas of the UK you can go to a sexual health clinic instead. Check your local services to find out if they offer it.
Anybody who has ever been sexually active is at risk of getting HPV, because genital HPV is passed on through skin-to-skin contact in the genital area, including:
The time from getting HPV to developing warts, cervical abnormalities or cervical cancer varies. In some people, we know that HPV can stay in the body without causing any problems (clinically insignificant) for a long time, before starting to cause problems. Often, it is not possible to find out exactly when you got HPV or who you got it from.
Most HPV infections are sexually transmitted, which can make some people feel worried or embarrassed. But it is nothing to be ashamed of because most of us (4 out of 5) will have it at some point in our lives. It is more common in young, sexually active people, with most people having between the ages of 16 and 25. But you can get HPV at any age if you are sexually active.
No. Cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN) and cervical glandular intraepithelial neoplasia (CGIN) means you have cell changes (abnormal cells) on your cervix. These changes are not cancer but, without monitoring or treatment, they may develop into cervical cancer.
The HPV vaccine is most effective before you begin puberty, as this is usually when our immune system is strongest. This is why the NHS vaccination programme offers the vaccine in schools at ages 11 to 13 in Scotland and 12 to 13 in the rest of the UK.
A diagnosis of cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN), which may also be referred to as dyskaryosis, means that you have abnormal/precancerous changes to cells in your cervix. These changes are not cancerous, but without treatment these cells could change into cancerous cells.
CIN/dyskaryosis is graded depending on how severe or extensive the changes in the cervical cells are. The different grades are:
You may also get a diagnosis of glandular cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CGIN), which is when the abnormal cells are within the glandular cells (those found within the cervical canal that goes up the middle of the cervix) rather than in the squamous cells (those found on the outer surface of the cervix).
For more information on the different types of abnormalities and how they are treated, please visit our information page on the results of cervical screening and our ‘Understanding screening results and abnormal cells’ PDF.
It has been estimated that in the UK, a woman's lifetime risk of developing cervical cancer if she does not attend cervical screening (smear test) is 1.7% . This means that without screening, about one in 60 women will develop cervical cancer. Cervical screening can prevent around seven out of 10 cancers . This means that with screening, about one in 200 women will develop cervical cancer.
No, cervical screening only looks at the cervix. It will not find any problems in the ovaries, the womb, the vulva or the vagina.
Yes, it can be used on its own. Sometimes this is because the cancer is advanced or it has come back. Sometimes it is used before another treatment is started – such as radiotherapy.
Bevacizumab, sometimes called by the drug name Avastin®, is a different kind of drug treatment that is sometimes used to treat women who have recurrent or advanced stage cervical cancer. This treatment does not cure cervical cancer; it is a life-extending drug. Bevacizumab is given through a drip in a similar way to chemotherapy. Usually this drug can be given for up to and no more than 10 cycles. Your oncologist will be able to let you know if this treatment is suitable for your stage and type of cancer.
Yes, once you have posted your completed 5km or 10km in the Facebook group or emailed to the fundraising team your medal will be posted out to you. Delivery may take up to 10 working days.
It is usually recommended that you do not have cervical screening while you are or could be pregnant. If you are invited for cervical screening while pregnant, wait until 3 months after your baby is born to have the test. Tell your doctor or nurse you are pregnant if you are invited.
If you have previously had an abnormal cervical screening result, you may need to have the test while pregnant. Your doctor or midwife may ask you to have it at your first antenatal appointment. This test will not affect with your pregnancy.
As we age, our ability to respond to any infection does decline, but there is still a good protective response in most of us.
If and when you have a follow-up appointment after colposcopy depends on:
Your colposcopist, or the hospital you had colposcopy at, should be able to tell you about any follow-up appointments.
If your colposcopy results show no cell changes, you do not need any further appointments. You will be invited back for cervical screening (a smear test) in 3 or 5 years, depending on your age.
If your colposcopy results show low-grade cell changes (also called CIN1), there are a few different options:
If you have CIN2, your colposcopist may also look at all these options. If you have any questions or concerns, speak with them so they can explain their recommendation.
If your colposcopy results show you need treatment, you will usually have a further appointment within 4 to 6 weeks.
If you had treatment, you will usually have a follow-up appointment about 6 months after.
We know that the HPV vaccine protects against certain high-risk HPV types for at least 10 years, but modelling suggests protection lasts even longer. Ongoing studies will show exactly how much longer you can expect to be protected for and whether you will need booster shots.
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Almost all cases of cervical cancer are caused by persistent high-risk human papillomavirus (HPV). High-risk HPV is contacted through any skin-to-skin contact, including genital-to-genital contact, anal, vaginal and oral sex and HPV infections are very common, with 80% of women contracting high-risk HPV at one point in their lives. Because infected individuals will have no obvious signs or symptoms it is very difficult to tell if an individual is infected, which means you may be at risk of contracting high-risk HPV if you become sexually active with a new partner.
However, it is important to remember that cervical cancer is not caused by promiscuity or infidelity. Becoming sexually active again later in life simply increases your chance of coming into contact with a high-risk type of HPV. But, many women who have only had one sexual partner in their lifetime become infected with high-risk HPV and may go on to develop abnormal cell changes/CIN (cervical intraepithelial neoplasia) or cervical cancer.
There are several things you can do to reduce your risk of developing cervical abnormalities and cervical cancer. These include the following:
Human papillomavirus (HPV) primary screening is a way of testing the sample taken during cervical screening. It is sometimes called HPV primary testing or HPV testing. Instead of looking for cell changes (abnormal cells) first, this tests for a high-risk HPV infection. Your appointment and the way your sample is taken will be exactly the same, but the results letter you get will be a bit different.
HPV primary screening has been recommended by the UK National Screening Committee and UK government. It is thought that this way of testing will prevent more cases of cervical cancer than the current test (cytology only).
All four UK nations are moving to this way of testing. The changes are happening:
Colposcopy is a further examination and test where an expert (colposcopist) takes a closer look at your cervix. It helps them understand whether you need monitoring or treatment.
If you need treatment, that is also done at colposcopy. Treatment may be done:
Yes! All women and people with a cervix between age 25 and 64 should go for regular cervical screening, no matter their sexual orientation.
Most changes to the cells of the cervix (abnormalities) are caused by persistent infection with HPV. As HPV can be passed on through skin-to-skin contact in the genital area, sexually active LGBTQ+ people are still at risk of getting it. Our immune system usually gets rid of HPV, but if it can’t, it may develop into abnormalities that can eventually develop into cervical cancer without the right monitoring or treatment. Going for cervical screening is the best way to protect against cervical cancer, along with having the HPV vaccine.
Yes, you can still get HPV during or after menopause. HPV is passed on through skin-to-skin contact in the genital area – something that is not affected by the menopause.
If you have ever been sexually active, there is also a risk of having HPV that is not currently causing any problems (clinically insignificant), that could start to cause problems (become clinically significant).
Sometimes, a biopsy or treatment you have at colposcopy can cause bleeding or changes to your vaginal discharge. If this happens, it is best to wait until this has stopped before you have vaginal penetrative sex. This includes:
The general rule is don’t put anything in your vagina while you have any side effects. If you want to have anal sex or clitoral stimulation, this shouldn’t make any side effects worse.
If you are worried or have specific questions, it is best to speak to your colposcopist or GP, who knows your full medical history.
All the HPV vaccines (Gardasil, Cervarix and Gardasil 9) protect against high-risk HPV 16 and 18. These HPV types cause 7 in 10 (70%) cases of cervical cancer. So although the HPV vaccine can’t prevent all cervical cancers, it does protect against the most common HPV types that cause it.
We ask for a suggested donation on items with a higher production cost. Giving this donation means we can focus our efforts on supporting more women affected by cervical abnormalities and cervical cancer.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), which advises UK health departments on immunisation, decided the HPV vaccine should also be offered to boys.
The HPV vaccine will help protect against a number of HPV-related cancers, including head and neck (oropharyngeal) cancers, penile cancer and anal cancer.
No. Most HPV types infect the skin and some cause warts that commonly appear on the hands and feet.
Around 40 HPV types affect the genital area. Around 13 of these HPV types can cause cancer. These types are called high-risk HPV. High-risk HPV can cause cancer of the cervix, vagina, anus, vulva, penis, and some head and neck cancers.
High-risk HPV includes types 16, 18, 31, 33, 35, 39, 45, 51, 52, 56, 58, 59 and 68. Types 16 and 18 cause 70% of all cervical cancers.
The main purpose of colposcopy is just to take a closer look at your cervix and, like at cervical screening, you are in control at all times. Like any appointment, it is your choice whether to go to colposcopy. Remember, you wouldn’t have been invited to colposcopy unless healthcare professionals thought it was needed.
If you are worried about colposcopy or have any questions, speak with your GP, the hospital where you have been referred, or to us. We are always here, over the phone or online, to help:
A small minority of people may not need a cervical screening:
When we talk about being sexually active, we mean:
Cervical cancer is rare in women and people with a cervix who have never been sexually active. This is because most (99.7%) cervical cancers are linked to high-risk HPV, which is usually sexually transmitted.
If you are not currently sexually active but have been in the past, it is recommended that you go for regular cervical screening.
If you are aged 65 or older, you will not be invited for cervical screening if:
This is because it is very unlikely that you will develop cervical cancer.
If you are 65 or older and have had abnormal results, you will be invited for cervical screening until the cells go back to normal.
If you are aged 65 or over and have never had cervical screening, you are entitled to a test. You can speak with your GP surgery about booking an appointment.
If you have had a hysterectomy but still have your cervix, you may still be at risk of developing abnormal cells and should still go for regular cervical screenings.
If your womb and cervix have been removed to prevent or treat cancer, you may be asked to have a vaginal smear (vault smear) for a short time after. Your doctor will tell you about this.
If your womb and cervix have been removed for a non-cancerous (benign) condition, such as fibroids or heavy bleeding, you do not need to go for cervical screenings.
The general rule is if you do not have a cervix then you do not need to go for cervical screening.
Using condoms and dental dams to have safe sex can help reduce the risk of getting HPV. But it won’t completely get rid of the risk, as HPV lives on the skin in and around the whole genital area – not just the part that the condom or dental dam covers! In men, genital HPV affects the skin of the penis, scrotum, anus and rectum. In women, it affects the vulva (area outside the vagina), lining of the vagina, cervix and rectum.
The contraceptive pill and other forms of contraception will not help reduce the risk of getting HPV.
After colposcopy, it is important to listen to your body and take any time you need to rest. Remember, we all heal at different rates, so what feels right for someone else may not be right for you.
If you have had a biopsy, you may feel okay to do your usual exercise straight away.
If you have had treatment, you may take a little longer to heal, but you can exercise as soon as you feel ready. Any side effects usually last for about 4 weeks, so you may want to avoid heavy exercise during that time. If you do exercise, any bleeding may get a little heavier after.
If you have any worries or want to ask about a specific exercise, speak with your GP, who knows your full medical history.
Yes! If you are female and have had the HPV vaccine, cervical screening is still important. The HPV vaccine protects against 7 in 10 (70%) cases of cervical cancer, so cervical screening helps find any cell changes (abnormal cells) caused by other HPV types.
Currently, there are three HPV vaccines available in the UK:
Gardasil is used in the NHS vaccination programme. Read more information about the NHS vaccination programme in:
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A hysterectomy refers to the surgical removal of the uterus (womb). It is undertaken under a general anaesthetic.
Whilst some women may have what is known as a simple hysterectomy (where the cervix, uterus (womb), and sometimes part of the fallopian tubes, are removed), the standard type advised by gynae-oncologists for most women diagnosed with cervical cancer is what is known as a radical hysterectomy. This is sometimes called a Wertheim (done with an abdominal operation) or Schauta (done with a vaginal operation) hysterectomy. During a radical hysterectomy the cervix, uterus and sometimes parts of the fallopian tubes are removed in one whole piece so that they can clearly see the surrounding tissue, as well as the tissue at the side of the uterus (the parametrium) and the top part of the vagina. It may also include the removal of some of the lymph nodes (part of the body’s fluid drainage system) in the pelvis.
Across the UK, men who have sex with men (MSM) are currently offered the HPV vaccine free. They can have it up to the age of 45.
HPV is passed is on through skin-to-skin contact. For genital HPV, this includes:
You are at risk of getting HPV from your first sexual contact. That means if you have ever been sexually active, you are at risk of having HPV.
You may have found out you are pregnant between having cervical screening (a smear test) and getting your results. If this happens and you have been invited to colposcopy, it's best to speak with your GP.
They will usually recommend you still go to colposcopy so an expert (called a colposcopist) can have a closer look at your cervix and do more tests if needed.
Colposcopy will not put your pregnancy at risk. If you are invited to colposcopy, tell your colposcopist you are pregnant, just in case they don’t know.
The NHS says you should get your cervical screening results within 2 after your test, depending on where you live in the UK. The length of time varies and sometimes may be shorter or longer than this. You can ask your doctor or nurse when you should get your result.
Remember, how long it takes to get your result has no impact on the result of your test.
Sometimes, our cells act in ways they shouldn’t and become abnormal. We call this a ‘change’.
Depending on where cell changes are, they may be called cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN) or cervical glandular intraepithelial neoplasia (CGIN).
Cell changes aren’t always a problem. But it’s important to keep an eye on them, to check whether they may develop further and need treatment.
The HPV vaccine is very safe. Before any vaccine can be used, clinical trials are done to check things like side effects. Thousands of girls and womenpeople of different ages took part in clinical trials for the HPV vaccine. If any side effects are reported, they are usually common ones that may happen after any injection.
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) is responsible for making sure that vaccines are safe, which includes collecting and reporting on information from healthcare professionals and people who have had the vaccine.
Of course. Besides adding a £2 donation to help cover the cost of postage you can add a further donation. If there is a suggested donation already in your cart (this will be due to the items you have chosen to order, to help cover the cost of production) you can increase the value by entering a higher value and clicking “Update Cart”.
A radical (Wertheim) hysterectomy (done with an abdominal operation) is when the surgeon removes the whole of the cervix, uterus (womb) and sometimes parts of the fallopian tubes are removed, as well as the tissue at the side of the uterus (the parametrium) and the top part of the vagina.
It may also involve removing some of the lymph nodes (part of the body’s fluid drainage system) located in the pelvis if they have been affected. This is called a lymph node dissection or lymphadenectomy.
If a woman has already gone through the menopause then the ovaries are usually removed as well. However, in younger pre-menopausal women the ovaries will ideally be left as removing them brings on an early menopause. If it is necessary to remove the ovaries before natural menopause, the symptoms of the menopause can often be prevented by giving hormone replacement therapy (HRT) as tablets or skin patches. Your gynae-oncologist or clinical nurse specialist will be able to discuss this with you in detail. Without functioning ovaries or HRT the woman would experience the menopause. Some women, following discussion with their consultant/GP/specialist nurse are not able/choose not to take HRT after a hysterectomy.
Virtual Steps for Jo’s was launched in 2019, the 20th anniversary of Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust. It’s a sponsored 5k or 10K walk, jog or run. The virtual event was launched so that anyone can take part in the event no matter where they live. It helps us to raise vital funds for our work; however it is also an opportunity to remember those who have lost their lives.
Most of us get rid of HPV thanks to our immune systems.
For those of us who can’t get rid of HPV, going for cervical screening when invited can find cell changes (abnormal cells) early, before cancer develops. If needed, cell changes can be treated and, in most cases, this is successful.
For a small number of women and people with a cervix, cell changes happen more quickly between cervical screening appointments or, rarely, cell changes are not found by cervical screening.
Different hospitals and colposcopists may recommend different things to do or not do before your appointment. If you are unsure, it's best to speak with the hospital where your appointment is.
Both types of tests done on the sample of cells taken cervical screening are reliable.
Cytology, which looks for cell changes (abnormal cells) first, is 70% to 80% reliable. This means using cytology as the first test means we find about 7 or 8 in 10 cell changes.
HPV primary testing, which tests for high-risk HPV first, is 90% to 95% reliable. This means using HPV testing as the first test means we find about 9 in 10 cell changes. It is a more accurate test than cytology, which is why the UK is switching to this method of testing.
With both tests, there is a small chance of getting an inaccurate result (between 20% and 30% with cytology, and between 5% and 10% with HPV primary testing).
Recent evidence shows that having the HPV vaccine, even after you have had an infection with HPV, offers women protection from both infection with other HPV types and reinfection by the same type in the future. However, the vaccine is only available on the NHS for free until the age of 18. If you are not eligible for the free vaccine you can pay for it privately. Some local chemists are also offering the vaccine. Check with your pharmacist to see if the vaccine is available near you.
Sometimes people use the words ‘precancerous cells’ when talking about CIN or CGIN. This does not mean CIN or CGIN will definitely develop into cervical cancer. It just means that the cells are abnormal, but are not cancer cells.
We don’t use the word ‘precancerous’. In our information, we talk about cell changes (abnormal cells), CIN or CGIN.
It is usually a horizontal line just above your pubic hair line. It tends to heal extremely well and many women can hardly see the scar once it is healed. Sometimes a doctor will need to make a vertical incision – if this is the case the doctor will explain to you where the scar will be and why he will need to perform the operation in this way. It is usually for a reason other than the cancer, such as the womb being a bit larger than normal. In some centres it is possible for the operation to be carried out using laparoscopic (keyhole) surgery. In this case you will usually have two or three small scars either side of your tummy button at the level of your pubic hair line or slightly higher. Having laparoscopic surgery causes less blood loss, speeds up the recovery time and less pain relief is needed. You will be offered this if it is available at your centre.
Virtual Steps for Jo’s can take place whenever is suitable for you. You choose when and where and just let us know. Send us a photo once you’ve logged your 5k or 10k and we will send you your medal!
No. Having genital warts may be worrying or unpleasant, but it not does mean you are more likely to develop cervical cancer.
Genital warts and cervical cancer are caused by different types of HPV, so having genital warts does not mean that you are more likely to get cancer. There are over 200 types of HPV and most of them do not cause any health problems. The HPV types that cause genital warts (6 and 11) are called low risk because they aren’t linked to cancer.
Yes, you can bring someone to your colposcopy appointment for support. They can be with you in the waiting room and examination room. Many people find bringing someone with them really helpful.
You may also find it useful to prepare and bring a list of questions with you, in case you feel anxious or overwhelmed on the day.
If you are feeling nervous, remember we are here to support you too.
Cervical screening is not 100% accurate. The test only takes a sample of cells from the surface of the cervix, which does not always show what is happening in the whole skin layer. However, cytology is between 70% and 80% reliable and HPV primary testing is 90% to 95% reliable. As the more accurate test, HPV primary testing is being rolled out across the UK.
Unfortunately, we don't have a definite answer to this question. In theory, once you have been infected with HPV you should be immune to that type and should not be reinfected. However, studies have shown that natural immunity to HPV is poor and women can be reinfected with the same virus type. So in some cases the answer will be yes, but in others it will be no.
Currently, there is no vaccine that can treat cell changes (abnormal cells) or cervical cancer. But there are other treatments and care that can help - speak with your healthcare team about what is right for you.
Your order should arrive within 10 working days. Please note during busy periods such as the build up to our awareness weeks in January and June orders may take longer to arrive. If you do not receive your order, please contact [email protected] or call 020 3096 8100. Find out more about delivery in our shop terms and conditions.
You will usually have a drip (small plastic tube) in your arm. This means that fluids can be given to you, without you needing to drink. A catheter (small tube) will usually be put into your bladder whilst you are asleep. This drains any urine into a bag. The drip will usually be removed very soon after your operation – once your body has recovered and you can drink independently. The catheter may need to stay longer, sometimes up to five days. This is to let the bladder fully recover after the surgery. Even when the catheter has been removed it is important that bladder function is measured, to ensure that it doesn't overfill. In a few cases it is necessary to continue catheterising the bladder to make sure it empties properly. This can go on for a few weeks or even a month or two in some cases. In some cases a woman’s medical team may teach her how to do intermittent self-catheterisation. This is when you insert a catheter into your own bladder at regular intervals during the day (or when you need the toilet). Then, once all of the urine has been drained from your bladder, you remove the catheter again. This means you are able to control the emptying of your own bladder.
A dressing will cover your scar – you may have stitches or clips which will need to be removed some days (usually between five and ten) after the operation. If you have had a laparoscopic procedure the wounds are often held together with glue which dissolves on its own to form a barely noticeable scar.
You may have one or more wound drains in place. These small tubes drain any blood or serous fluid from the scar area into a bag or bottle. This helps prevent infection and reduces bruising. These wound drains are taken out within days of the operation. You will be given pain killers to minimise any discomfort that you experience. This may be in the form of an epidural, hand held pump (where you can press the button when you need more pain relief), injections or/and suppositories. When you are able to drink, then you can have oral medications such as tablets. The staff looking after you will talk to you about your pain relief choices before your operation.
Once you have registered online you can join our Facebook group. Set up a fundraising page and spread the word to let people know what you are doing. Then run, walk or jog 5km or 10km! Once you have completed the walk/run just send us a photo of your logged activity or post it into the Facebook Group and we will send out your Steps for Jo’s medal!
The experts who do your colposcopy examination and any treatment are called colposcopists. They sometimes go by a different title, like nurse colposcopist or colposcopy nurse specialist.
No. It is important to remember that cervical screening is a screening test only. It gives a snapshot of cervical cells to identify whether there may be changes caused by high-risk HPV early.
If you have an abnormal result, you may be invited to colposcopy, so an expert can take a closer look at your cervix and diagnose any cell changes (abnormal cells). If these changes are not monitored or treated, they may develop into cervical cancer at some point in the future. This is why cervical screening is the best way to prevent cervical cancer, along with having the HPV vaccine.
Lots of people you feel anxious after getting an abnormal result, so you are not alone if you feel this way. But it is important that you understand what any cell changes are, so you can talk with your doctor about the results and get the right care and support.
HPV is a common, sexually transmitted virus. It is more common in young, sexually active people, with most people getting it between the ages of 16 and 25.
4 out of 5 (80%) of us will have HPV at some point in our lives, so it is really hard to avoid. Having HPV isn’t a sign that someone has slept with a lot of people or been unfaithful to a partner, because you can get it during your first sexual contact – whether that is touching, penetrative sex, oral sex or sharing sex toys. The risk of getting HPV does increase with the number of sexual partners someone has, as well as the number of partners their partner has had, but that is just because there is a higher chance of being exposed to HPV.
The infection rate in men has not been evaluated to the same extent as in women, but is likely to follow the same pattern.
Cell changes like CIN and CGIN do not cause symptoms. They are usually found after colposcopy.
Read more about colposcopy >
If you have any symptoms, such as vaginal bleeding that is unusual for you, see your GP straight away. These symptoms are usually caused by conditions that aren’t cervical cancer, but it is important to get them checked out.