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Frequently Asked Questions

Our team have put together some of the most common questions about cervical cancer screening and testing. If you can’t find an answer to any questions you have, please refer to the other pages on this site where you can find further information or contact us.

Q. What exactly is GynaeCheck?

A.

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Q. What is HPV?

A.

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Q. Are HPV and HIV the same?

A.

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Q. How often should I get tested?

A.

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Q. Can I replace the smear test with GynaeCheck?

A.

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Q. Is HPV and Chlamydia connected?

A.

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Q. I am 21 years old; why can’t I have GynaeCheck?

A.

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Q. Can I take GynaeCheck sample during my period?

A.

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Q. If I get tested for chlamydia and I am positive what then?

A.

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Q. I have been faithful to my husband for as long as I can remember and I am now HPV positive. Does this mean he has been unfaithful to me?

A.

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Q. Can I use GynaeCheck with various contraceptive devices?

A.

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Q. I did not have the vaccine for HPV. Does GynaeCheck give me the possibility of having this done?

A.

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Q. What exactly is the cervix and what does it do?

A.

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Q. What is cervical cancer?

A.

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Q. What are the symptoms of cervical cancer?

A. Early stage cervical cancer is difficult to detect because there are often very few, if any, symptoms. Symptoms that can occur include:

  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding: this may occur after or during sexual intercourse, or between periods.
  • Post menopausal vaginal bleeding in women not taking HRT or who have stopped it for six weeks or more.
  • Vaginal discharge that is smelly or contains blood.
  • Discomfort or pain during intercourse
  • Lower back pain/pelvic pain

These symptoms can be associated with other conditions not related to cervical cancer but you should always make an appointment with your GP if you experience any of them to have them investigated. Remember, early detection saves lives.

Because many women don’t experience any symptoms at all, regular cervical screening is extremely important in detecting the disease. As cervical cancer develops however, more symptoms may become apparent– read our page on cervical cancer symptoms for further information (link to symptoms page);

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Q. How common is cervical cancer and who is most at risk?

A.

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Q. Is there anything I can do to prevent cervical cancer?

A.

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Q. How many types of cervical cancer are there?

A. There are two main types of cervical cancer:

  • squamous cell - eight out of 10 (80%) cervical cancers are diagnosed as squamous cell. Squamous cell cancers are composed of the flat cells that cover the surface of the cervix and often begin where the ectocervix joins the endocervix.
  • adenocarcinoma – more than one in 10 cervical cancers are diagnosed as adenocarcinoma (15-20%). The cancer develops in the glandular cells which line the cervical canal. This type of cancer can be more difficult to detect with cervical screening tests because it develops within the cervical canal.

Adenosquamous cancers are tumours that contain both squamous and glandular cancer cells. Other rare types of cervical cancer can include clear cell, small cell undifferentiated, lymphomas and sarcomas.

Q. What causes cervical cancer?

A. Almost all cases of cervical cancer are caused by the Human papilloma virus (HPV). HPV is very common and approximately 80% of sexually active adults will come into contact with it at some point in their lives without displaying any symptoms. This is why it is so important to attend your regular cervical screening

Q. Is cervical cancer infectious?

A. No, it is not infectious and can’t be passed on to others.

Q. How is cervical cancer detected?

A. The first step in identifying cervical cancer is a “smear” test where a small sample of cells is scraped from the cervix. This is examined and should there be any indication of abnormality in the cells, a biopsy will be taken to further establish whether there is any sign of cervical cancer. Doctors may also carry out a pelvic examination and may, as a result, call for further investigations such as a smear test or biopsy.

Q. Is cervical cancer hereditary?

A. Cervical cancer is not thought to be hereditary as it is not caused by genetic changes. There may however still be a higher risk if a 1st degree relative has had the disease simply because of lifestyle and other factors.

 

Q. What is the risk of developing cervical cancer?

A. A study by Canfell K et al. in 2004 found that a woman who does not attend regular cervical screening has a lifetime risk of 1.7% of developing the disease. Combined with the fact that a further study by Sasieni P et al in 2009 on the effectiveness of cervical screening found that 70% of cancers can be prevented with regular screening, this means that with screening, about one in 200 women will develop cervical cancer. Without screening, that figure falls to approximately 1 in 60.

Q. What is a colposcopy?

A. A colposcopy is a way of identifying abnormal areas on the cervix for potential biopsy and treatment.

It is a simple outpatient procedure that is normally very well tolerated. Should a patient have a positive GynaeCheck they will be advised on referral to a Gynaecologist who may perform the procedure.

Check4Cancer works closely with other leading edge technologies, such as DySIS digital colposcopy which is more accurate than traditional colposcopy

Q. How is cervical cancer treated?

A. There are many treatments for cervical cancer and the type of treatment you will be offered will depend on the severity of the cell changes discovered and the extent of these cells in your cervix. In many cases, your smear test or biopsy may have detected abnormalities in cells that have not yet developed into cervical cancer, in which case, removal of the cells may be all that is needed. If the disease has progressed, more radical treatments involving surgery, radiotherapy or chemotherapy may be needed. Common treatments include:

Laser Therapy – sometimes referred to as laser ablation where abnormal cells are removed with a laser.

Cold Coagulation - similar to laser therapy, despite its name, a hot probe is used to destroy the abnormal cells on the cervix.

Cryotherapy – a cold probe is used to freeze away any abnormal cells.

Diathermy – unlike the above methods which destroy the abnormal cells, diathermy works by using an electric current to cut away the tissue identified as containing abnormal cells. This can then be examined after the procedure to ensure the diagnosis was correct and ensure all the abnormality has been removed.

LLETZ (Also known as LEEP) – large loop excision of the transformation zone is very similar to diathermy in that an electric current is used to cut away the area containing the abnormal cells. In this case, what is known as the transformation zone is cut away. This is an area usually inside the endocervical canal.

Cone biopsy – This involves a minor operation that can be carried out under local or general anaesthetic where the surgeon removes a cone shaped piece of tissue containing the abnormal cells from the cervix.

Hysterectomy – If there is a severe abnormality, you are past menopause, have had all your children or have had abnormal cells more than once, this may be an option. There are different types of hysterectomy but most commonly, a radical hysterectomy (sometimes referred to as a Wertheim’s hysterectomy) is recommended where the womb and cervix is removed. Your surgeon will also discuss the removal of your ovaries as this will depend on your age and whether you are post-menopausal.

Radiotherapy – in some instances, your oncologist may recommend radiotherapy for cervical cancer. This can involve external treatment where a machine, similar to an X-ray machine will direct beams at specific areas of your cervix. Alternatively, internal radiotherapy can be used where a radioactive source is inserted into the womb. Sometimes radiotherapy is given after surgery.

Chemotherapy – this can also be used to treat some forms of cervical cancer and recent studies have found that combining this with radiotherapy is the best option for certain stages of cervical cancer. Chemotherapy is sometimes used after surgery and, more recently, experimental treatments have been undertaken where it is used before surgery to shrink the tumour.

end faq

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