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 . Changes detected at the screening test can be treated and progression to cancer stopped. HPV screening on its own (primary HPV testing) is now offered in some areas, and by the end of 2019 it will be offered as the main method of screening for cervical cancer, replacing the old “smear test”. Some types of HPV can also cause genital warts.

Immunization against HPV is also a powerful way of reducing the risk of cervical cancer. Since 2006 12-13 year old girls have been offered the HPV vaccine, which protects against cervical cancer and genital warts and from September 2019 that vaccine will also be offered to boys

We recommend Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust – the only UK charity dedicated to women affected by cervical cancer and cervical abnormalities – for the most up-to-date and detailed information.

Author: Jane Woyka