Women’s Cancer Communication Project

Coordinated by the European Institute of Women’s Health

Information on Cervical Cancer

int-c Cervical cancer is one of the most frequent cancers in women and occurs at the cervix the opening to the uterus or also called womb.

The highest incidence of cervical cancer occurs in women aged 40-55. In 2018, 315.000 women died worldwide of cervical cancer. In Europe.

It has been estimated that 1 in 100 women will develop cervical cancer. The Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a common sexually transmitted virus and entails around 100 different types.

Two types (16 &18) cause 70% of cervical cancer or its prior stage. Smear tests can identify the HPV virus and early treatment can prevent the development of cervical cancer cells.

Nearly 70% of women who die from cervical cancer have not had a routine smear test. Most cervical cancer cases can be successfully prevented if detected early enough through regular smear tests.

Annual number of new cases of cervical cancer by age group in European regions (Estimates for 2018)











*Eastern Europe 15-39 years: 7,721 cases. 40-64 years: 19,993 cases. 65+ years: 8,224 cases. *Southern Europe 15-39 years: 1,699 cases. 40-64 years: 5,100 cases. 65+ years: 2,355 cases. *Western Europe 15-39 years: 1,999 cases. 40-64 years: 5,043 cases. 65+ years: 2,614 cases. *Northern Europe 15-39 years: 2,278 cases. 40-64 years: 2,736 cases. 65+ years: 1,305 cases. Data retrieved: Bruni L, Albero G, Serrano B, Mena M, Gómez D, Muñoz J, Bosch FX, de Sanjosé S. ICO/IARCInformation Centre on HPV and Cancer (HPV Information Centre). Human Papillomavirus and RelatedDiseases in Europe. Summary Report 17 June 2019


  • The most common symptom is vaginal bleeding after intercourse
  • Bleeding between periods
  • Possible abnormal, vaginal discharge and discomfort
  • Only one swollen leg
  • Further back, leg or pelvic pain, fatigue, weight loss, or loss of appetite

In the early stages of the disease, there may be no obvious signs or symptoms that will tell a woman she is at risk. The only way to detect cancerous cells is by having a regular smear test every 2-3 years.


  • Genital infection with the human papilloma virus (HPV), some types can cause genital warts and can play a role in the development of cervical cancer. HPV is passed on during sexual intercourse with an infected partner. Condoms can decrease the risk of infection but not eliminate it. Areas which are not covered by a condom are still prone to infection.
  • Sexual activity in early teens.
  • Smoking.
  • Possible long-term use of oral contraceptives.
  • Multiple sex partners for either woman or partner.


Have a smear test regularly.

  1. Consider using a condom as a barrier method of contraception
  2. Cut down on smoking or give up altogether.
  3. HPV Vaccination for girls between 9-14 years old.

HPV vaccinations provide the greatest benefits for preadolescents. Since women are most at risk to be infected and to develop cervical cancer from an infection, most countries only suggest vaccination for girls. Risk groups who include, men having sex with men and individuals with an immune disease such as HIV are also recommended to be vaccinated.


  1. Early cancer (or precancer) is treated with laser treatment. This will cure the cancer, without damaging the womb.
  2. Sometimes treatment may involve surgical removal of the cervix and the surrounding tissue, but leaves the ovaries intact. This will leave the woman able to have children.


The cervical smear test is a simple test which shows if there are any changes in the cells of the cervix which could develop into cancer. To take the sample a special instrument called a speculum is inserted into the vagina. This helps open the vagina so a sample can be taken. The doctor will collect a sample of cells from your cervix with a small brush or a tiny wooden spatula. This sample is placed on a slide and sent off to the laboratory to be thoroughly checked. The results are given to your doctor. Cervical cancer is not life-threatening if it is caught early. Therefore, regular cervical smears are so important. Remember, most women with an abnormal smear test result do not have cancer of the cervix. Screening rates differ drastically between the European countries. In Latvia and Romania only 25% of women where tested, whereas in Austria or Sweden more than 80% of women had been screened regularly for cervical cancer between 2006 and 2016.


All women who are or have been sexually active should have a cervical smear test at least once every three years. The disease can take up to ten years untill it is developed.


The test is available from family doctors, maternity hospitals, family planning and well woman centres.

Updated Sept 2019 by Marleen Koetz



Cancom Index | Previous | Next

Leave a Comment

I accept the Privacy Policy

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.