Cervical cancer

Introduction

Cervical cancer is the sixth most common cancer in women in Scotland. There are about 330 new cases of cervical cancer diagnosed in Scotland each year.

Cervical cancer is the most common cancer in women aged 15-34 in Scotland. People from the most deprived areas are more than twice as likely to get cervical cancer than people from the least deprived areas.

The most effective way to prevent cervical cancer is through regular cervical screening, which allows any early changes of the cervix to be found.

For younger women, the HPV vaccination can help prevent 70% of cervical cancers. Cervical cancer is largely preventable and, if caught early, survival rates are high. You can find out more about the HPV vaccination on Immunisation Scotland.

What is the cervix?

The cervix is the entrance to the womb (uterus) from the vagina.

The following diagram shows the parts of the female reproductive system.

This diagram has been taken from Cancer Research UK's information about the cervix.

Diagram showing the parts of the female reproductive system

What does the cervix do? 

The cervix opening allows semen to pass through the birth canal into the womb (uterus) so that a woman can conceive (become pregnant). It is the opening which allows babies to be born.

It joins the womb (uterus) to the top of the vagina.

How does cancer begin?

Cancer occurs when the cells in a certain area of your body divide and multiply too rapidly. This produces a lump of tissue known as a tumour.

Cervical cancer happens when the cells in the cervix grow more quickly than normal. 

About cervical cancer

There are two main types of cervical cancer:

  • squamous cell carcinoma
  • adenocarcinoma.

The squamous cancer is preceded by a premalignant (pre-cancerous) phase that usually takes 5-10 years to develop into cancer. There is much less known about adenocarcinoma.

The sooner cervical cancer is diagnosed, the easier it is to treat successfully.

You can read about how common cervical cancer is and what the survival rates are on the Cancer Research UK website..

Scottish HPV immunisation programme

The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine is designed to protect against types of HPV that cause around 70% of the cases of cervical cancer in Scotland. The vaccine does not protect against all cervical cancers, so regular cervical screening is still important.

You can read more about the HPV vaccine on the Health Scotland website.

Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust case studies

A number of cervical cancer case studies can be found on the Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust website, including:

There is also a useful video about the vaccine called Together we can fight cervical cancer on the Immunisation Scotland website.

Last updated: 02 December 2013

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