By Courteney Jackson, a medical negligence solicitor at Irwin Mitchell

The NHS HPV vaccination programme has cut cervical cancer cases by nearly 90 per cent, but more than 3,200 women each year are diagnosed with cervical cancer in the UK. It is crucial to attend routine smear tests and to keep an eye on any symptoms of cervical cancer between tests and to get any symptoms checked out. The earlier cancer is picked up, the higher the chance of successful treatment.

Symptoms

Symptoms of cervical cancer include:

  • Heavier periods than usual;
  • Vaginal bleeding between periods, after sex or after the menopause;
  • A smelly vaginal discharge/ changes to your vaginal discharge;
  • Pain during sex;
  • Urine infections that keep coming back; and
  • Pain in the lower tummy or back.

If anyone experiences these symptoms between cervical screening appointments, it is important to not wait for your next one. Talk to your GP or practice nurse and get checked. Although your symptoms are unlikely to be cancer, it is important to get them checked out.

Next steps if you spot symptoms 

It is important to see your GP if you have any symptoms or if you notice a change that isn’t normal for you. You may want to write down your symptoms, including when they started, when they happen and how often you have them.

The GP will ask you some questions about your symptoms and may ask to examine you. The examination should not be painful, but it is important to speak to your GP if you feel uncomfortable and remember to bring a friend or family member to your examination if you wish.

The GP may then refer you for more tests or to see a specialist if they think you need to be investigated. This may be an urgent referral, but this does not definitely mean you have cancer. Ask your doctor to explain their reasoning if they don’t think you need a referral and ask if they need to see you again at a later date. It is important to go back if your symptoms change or get worse.

 Don’t be shy to attend your GP

The earlier cancer is picked up, the higher the chance of successful treatment so do not delay seeing your doctor because you are worried about what may be causing your symptoms. Try not to be embarrassed and remember that doctors are used to discussing intimate problems with patients.

Support is available

There are a number of charities such as Cancer Research and Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust that have more information about the disease.

Find out more about Irwin Mitchell’s expertise in supporting people and their families affected by delays in cancer diagnosis and treatment at our dedicated section.