The cervix joins the top of the vagina to the lower part of the uterus (womb). Your body is made up of cells and new ones are produced to replace old ones over time. However, if the cells grow too fast a tumour or lump can form. Cervical cancer can develop on the outside or inside of the cervix.
In the UK, 1 in 100 people with a uterus will develop cervical cancer. This is low.
What causes cervical cancer?
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a virus that can cause cervical cancer as it can change the cells in the cervix, which can develop into cervical cancer.
However, HPV is common and having HPV does not necessarily mean you will get cervical cancer.
Low risk types of HPV include harmless growths such as warts, and high risk HPV may cause cancer to develop, although research shows having high risk HPV is not enough on its own for cervical cancer to develop.
Current research suggests that high risk HPV alongside the below factors may increase your risk:
If you have had sex with multiple partners
If you are under 45
If you have been pregnant and given birth
How can I reduce my risk of getting cervical cancer?
1 in 100 women will develop cervical cancer in the UK, this is very low.
Things that may help reduce your risk further are:
Attend a cervical screening test (smear test). A smear test looks for HPV cells which may develop into cervical cancer. If abnormal cells are found, you can have treatment such as a colposcopy to monitor or remove the cells.
HPV vaccine. The HPV vaccine is offered to girls and boys aged 11 to 13 as part of the NHS vaccination programme. If you are under 25, you might be able to get the HPV vaccine for free.
Practice safe sex. Condoms will not reduce the risk of getting HPV entirely but they can offer some protection.
Stop smoking. Smoking weakens your immune system which will make it more difficult for your body to fight the HPV virus.
Cervical cancer is rare but something to be aware of. Read our post on the symptoms of cervical cancer.
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