Skip to main content

Warning notification:Warning

Unfortunately, you are using an outdated browser. Please, upgrade your browser to improve your experience with HSE. The list of supported browsers:

  1. Chrome
  2. Edge
  3. FireFox
  4. Opera
  5. Safari

Cervical cancer

Cervical cancer is a cancer of the cervix. The cervix is the opening to your womb from your vagina.

The human papillomavirus (HPV) can cause cells in the cervix to become abnormal. Abnormal cells are sometimes called pre-cancerous cells.

The cells change slowly. In most cases, it takes 15 to 20 years for these cells to go from normal to abnormal to cancer.

Who can get cervical cancer

If you have a cervix and have had any kind of sexual contact with a man or a woman, you could get cervical cancer.

Cervical cancer mostly affects women age 30 to 50 who have ever been sexually active.

Causes of cervical cancer

Reduce your risk

You can reduce your risk of cervical cancer by getting:

  • the HPV vaccine
  • regular cervical screening tests
  • help to quit smoking

You should also contact your GP about any concerns or symptoms you may have.

You are still at risk of cervical cancer even if you have had the HPV vaccine. The vaccine does not protect you from all types of HPV.

A cervical screening test checks if you have any of the types of HPV that cause cervical cancer.

Reduce your risk of cervical cancer


Cervical cancer often has no signs or symptoms in its early stages.

You might have symptoms when it develops. The most common sign is abnormal bleeding.

Do not ignore symptoms, even if you have had a recent normal screening result.

Symptoms of cervical cancer

Treating cervical cancer

If you get a cervical cancer diagnosis early, it's usually possible to treat it using surgery.

Advanced cases of cervical cancer are usually treated using both chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

Some people treated for cervical cancer may have long-term complications.

Treatment for cervical cancer

Content supplied by the NHS and adapted for Ireland by the HSE

Page last reviewed: 22 November 2023
Next review due: 22 November 2026

This project has received funding from the Government of Ireland’s Sláintecare Integration Fund 2019 under Grant Agreement Number 123.