As it is Cervical Cancer Awareness Week, we want to help raise awareness and answer some of the common questions that crop up surrounding Cervical Cancer. We have spoken to Risalina Nitro, our Oncology Nurse Navigator to get her tips and advice.

“Due to the nature of the disease, specialising in cancer is a challenging but rewarding aspect of nursing. Being a designated Oncology Nurse Navigator means that you work with Oncologists and newly diagnosed patients from the moment their cancer journey begins until the treatment has finished. To be a nurse, you have to be really driven and truly passionate, because it is extremely physically, mentally, and emotionally demanding. It is important to know when to listen to patients and their families and a critical, yet challenging, aspect of the job, is being able to offer them advice.”

Here Risa answers some of the most frequently asked questions about cervical cancer.

As it is cervical cancer awareness week, it is important to spread awareness and knowledge surrounding cervical cancer. What are the signs/symptoms of it?

Yes, cervical cancer awareness is very important for women if they are aged 25-64 years old, they have a cervix and if they have ever been sexually active with a man or a woman.

The common symptoms include:

  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding which can occur during or after sex, in between periods, or new bleeding after you have been through menopause.
  • Menstrual bleeding that is longer and heavier than usual.
  • Increased vaginal discharge.
  • Unexplained persistent pelvic and or back pain.

What should you do if you have any symptoms?

If you experience any of these symptoms, you should check them out with your GP. It does not necessary mean that you have cervical cancer, but it is always best to check just to be sure. That is why the Cervical Screening (Smear Test) is very important for us.

Is there anything we can do to reduce our risk of getting cervical cancer?

Yes, have your smear test. Smear tests are offered every 3 years by the NHS for women aged 25 to 64 years old. It is not a test for cancer but to prevent cancer. A smear test takes a small sample of cells from the cervix to check for a certain type of Human Papillomavirus (HPV). If HPV is found, then it suggests you need further tests and treatment to reduce the risk of cervical cancer forming. If there is no HPV found, then you do not need any more tests.

Usually, invitations are sent to get your cervical screening done; however, do contact your GP surgery online or by phone if you think you are due to have cervical screening but have not been sent an invite.

If you are a trans man and still have a cervix, you should have screening too. You may not be sent an invitation if you are registered as a male with your GP, but just let your GP know if you want to have a cervical screening test.

Do you have any advice to someone who is worried about cervical cancer?

If you are worried about cervical cancer, please contact your GP as soon as possible. I know it can be worrying when we notice unusual symptoms, but more often than not it isn’t cancer. However, if you have any symptoms or are worried about anything at all, it is best to get it checked out. Your GP will assess you to help decide the next steps, they might ask about your medical history to try and understand what may be causing the symptoms; your sexual history for possibility of having a sexually transmitted infection (STI) and if you are on any contraception. So however big or small, get it checked as soon as possible to put your mind at rest.