Cervical cancer is cancer of the cervix, which is part of the female reproductive organs, found at the bottom of the uterus (womb) leading into the vagina. This type of cancer is normally slow growing, and may be prevented with the detection and treatment of early abnormal cell changes. Cervical cancer often has no symptoms, but abnormal vaginal bleeding is often the earliest symptom.
Before cervical cancer develops, the cells of the cervix start to change and become abnormal. These abnormal cells are precancerous, meaning they are not cancer. Precancerous changes to the cervix are called dysplasia of the cervix (or cervical dysplasia) and are usually caused by Human Papillomavirus (HPV) passed through sexual activity. Dysplasia of the cervix is a common precancerous change that can develop into cancer if it isn’t treated. It is important to know that the majority of women with dysplasia do not develop cancer.
- About 10 NB women die of cervical cancer each year.
- Cervical cancer is the third most common cancer for women aged 20-49 in Canada.
- Cervical cancer can be prevented if found early with regular Pap test screening.
- Thousands of cervical cancer cases are prevented and lives saved each year because of cervical screening in Canada.
- Women who have not had a Pap test for five or more years are at higher risk of developing cervical cancer.
- Pap test screening remains important in post-menopausal women.
Cervical cancer can be present without feeling any symptoms.
However, sometimes the signs and symptoms of cervical cancer can also be caused by other health conditions. Common signs include:
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding (i.e.: between periods or after sexual intercourse)
- Pain during sexual intercourse
- Clear watery discharge from the vagina
- Increased amount of discharge from the vagina
- Foul-smelling discharge from the vagina
If you have any of these warning signs for cervical cancer, please see your Primary Health-Care Provider (doctor or nurse).
You can lower your risk of developing cervical cancer by:
- Screening regularly with Pap tests
- Getting the HPV vaccine (if you are between the ages of nine to 45).
- Practicing safe sex (i.e.: use of condoms).
- Not smoking.
- Maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Go to Healthy and Inclusive Community website for more information on healthy living.
You can lower your risk for colorectal cancer by:
- getting screened regularly
- eating a balanced diet high in fruits and vegetables
- maintaining a healthy weight
- not smoking
- limiting alcohol consumption
- taking vitamin D supplements
If you have questions or concerns about cervical cancer, please speak with your primary health-care provider (doctor or nurse) or visit the Canadian Cancer Society.