According to Cancer Research UK, there are 9 new cases of cervical cancer diagnosed in the UK every day. Though it is not the most common cancer affecting women (around 2% of all new cancer diagnoses) cervical cancer can often be overlooked, meaning that many people may not know much about it. 

According to Cancer Research UK, 99.8% of cervical cancer cases in the UK are preventable.  Cervical Cancer Prevention Week is all about providing information and encouraging eligible women to attend cervical screening and any subsequent medical appointments in the hope of catching cervical cancer sooner. This year's campaign, Smear For Smear 2020, looks to smear the myths and stigma which can be associated with HPV (human papillomavirus).

Cervical cancer

Cancer of the cervix often has no symptoms in its early stages. Common symptoms include abnormal vaginal bleeding, which can occur during or after sex, in between periods, or new bleeding post-menopause.

As with all cancers the early it is caught, the more treatable it is. Therefore, as many women do not experience symptoms in the early stages, cervical screening is essential to early diagnosis and treatment.

Cervical screening – “smear test”

Women aged between 25 and 64 are eligible to have routine smear tests, if aged 24 to 49 it’s every 3 years, if aged 50-64 it’s every 5 years.

During a smear test, a small sample of cells is taken from the cervix using a swab and is checked under a microscope for abnormalities. It is a quick procedure which only takes a few moments. 

If an abnormality is found, this does not necessarily indicate cancer. One cause could be the presence of HPV (human papillomavirus) which is the presence of treatable precancerous cells in both women and men. In England girls and boys are offered a 2-shot vaccination when they start secondary school to protect them from HPV.

If a smear test has an abnormal finding, investigations should be undertaken to find the cause of the abnormal cells.

Cancer prevention

Unfortunately attendance at routine smear tests has been declining over recent years.

1 in 4 women do not attend their routine smear tests, with a higher rate of 1 in 3 women aged 25-29 skipping their smears. 35% of women said embarrassment was the reason for their non-attendance.

Smear tests are known to prevent around 75% of cervical cancers by finding HPV cells before they have become cancerous.

Investigation of cancer

If cervical cancer is suspected, your GP should refer you to a specialist gynaecologist with 2 weeks for further tests. It is essential that such referrals are made and acted on appropriately, as these can strengthen the patient’s prognosis and potentially lead to a better outcome. 

To learn more

Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust provides information regarding HPV, cervical screening and cervical cancer and also support for people affected by cervical cancer. See their website at 

If you are concerned about a delayed cancer referral or care which you feel may have let you or a loved one down, please contact a member of our national team for a free, confidential discussion:-

Carolyn Lowe, Partner (Oxford/Milton Keynes) on 01865781019, 

Karen Reynolds, Partner (Derby/Stoke on Trent/Birmingham) on 0845 272 5677,

Jane Williams, Partner (Leicester/Nottingham) on 0845 272 5724, 

For further information please also visit our website at: