Cancer Insurance

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January is #CervicalHealthMonth

January is #CervicalHealthMonth, and a vital part of that is #cervicalcancer awareness.


Cervical cancer is cancer of the cervix, a part of the female reproductive system. Also called the neck of the uterus, the cervix is the lower, cylinder-shaped part of the uterus that connects to the vagina. It has an outer surface that opens into the vagina and an inner surface that faces into the uterus, called the cervical canal.

Cervical cancer is a malignant tumour found in the tissues of the cervix. It occurs when abnormal cells in the cervix turn into cancer cells. The most common cervical cancer is squamous cell carcinoma, accounting for 80% of cases. Adenocarcinoma is less common and more difficult to diagnose because it starts higher in the cervix.
At diagnosis, cervical cancer is often just within the cervix, but it may spread to tissues around the cervix (e.g. the vagina) or to other parts of the body.


The most common signs of cervical cancer include:
  • vaginal bleeding between periods
  • menstrual bleeding that is longer or heavier than usual
  • bleeding after intercourse
  • pain during intercourse
  • unusual vaginal discharge
  • vaginal bleeding after menopause
  • excessive tiredness
  • leg pain or swelling
  • low back pain.


In 1928, Dr Papanicolaou discovered that cells in the cervix change in appearance before they become cancerous. The Pap smear is a test used to check for such changes in the cervix. It is a screening tool to find early warning signs that cancer might develop in the futureAll women over 18 who have ever had sex are advised to have a Pap smear every two years, even if they no longer have sex.

If changes in cells are detected with a Pap smear or if a doctor remotely suspects a patient may have cervical cancer, people are encouraged to undergo further testing. These tests typically include:
  • colposcopy
  • biopsy, cone biopsy or large loop excision of the transformation zone.


Treatment for cervical cancer depends on the stage. Treatment for early and small cancers is surgery, sometimes followed by chemoradiotherapy. A cone biopsy may suffice, but a hysterectomy (surgical removal of the uterus) is sometimes required. For locally advanced disease, a combination of radiotherapy and chemotherapy is used. For metastatic disease, the treatment is chemotherapy or palliative care alone.


Almost all cases of cervical cancer are caused by persistent infection with some high-risk types of the human papillomavirus (HPV). The other main risk factor for cervical cancer is smoking.


A vaccine has been developed that prevent the types of HPV most commonly linked to cervical cancer. Through the National Immunisation Program, most girls receive the HPV vaccine around the age of 12. Since 2013, boys have also been included in the National HPV Immunisation Program because the vaccine also helps prevent some HPV-related cancers and disease that affect men.

This #CervicalHealthMonth, make sure you take time to familiarise yourself with the symptoms of cervical cancer. Importantly, make sure you have had a Pap smear within the last two years. Be aware and alert about cervical cancer.

Take care,
All information is from the Cancer Council.