A CERVIX is a part of the anatomy that many of us may be aware of — but not all of us have.
Especially because it's a part of the body not visible to the human eye.
But what is it exactly? What does it do? And who has one? Here we answer everything you need to know.
What is the cervix?
The cervix is part of the reproductive system that sits between the womb and the top of the vagina, just inside the body.
It sometimes gets the name “the neck of the womb”.
To look at, it’s a bit like a ring doughnut the size of two inches.
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The fleshy ring has many functions; it helps keep the vagina clean, for example.
It also can provide pleasure during sex – although it is not possible to penetrate the opening of it, it can be bumped up against.
Importantly, the cervix is vital for protecting a foetus during pregnancy by creating a mucus plug that keeps bacteria out of the womb.
When the baby is ready to come out, the cervix opens up to allow this to happen.
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This is what doctors look at to say whether the patient is “dilated” during labour.
It’s important to protect the cervix, as cervical cancer can be deadly.
Anyone with a cervix is encouraged to get their free NHS smear test when invited, which checks for anything abnormal on the cervix.
Do men have a cervix?
Not everyone has a cervix.
Women, transgender (trans) men and people assigned female at birth are all born with a cervix.
Some trans men have a total hysterectomy and have the cervix – as well as ovaries and womb – removed.But not all choose to do this.
Men do not biologically have a cervix because it is part of the female reproductive system.
Meanwhile, some women need to have them removed or in very rare cases, are not born with a cervix.
How to book in for a check
Cervical screenings are done by a GP or female nurse or doctor.
You'll get a letter sent to book your appointment and it's important that you schedule it as soon as you can.
You can usually do this by following the instructions sent on the letter, for some surgeries this will mean an online booking and others will be on the phone.
What are the symptoms of cervical cancer?
There are no obvious symptoms during the early stages of cervical cancer – that’s why it’s best to keep up with your smears when reminded by your GP.
However, vaginal bleeding can often be a tell-tale sign, especially if it occurs after sex, in between periods or after the menopause.
That said, abnormal bleeding is not a definite sign of the condition, just a possible indicator.
Nevertheless, it should be investigated by your GP as soon as possible.
Other warning signs include:
- pain and discomfort during sex
- unusual or unpleasant vaginal discharge
- pain in your lower back or pelvis
And if it spreads to other organs, the signs can include:
- pain in your lower back or pelvis
- severe pain in your side or back caused by your kidneys
- peeing or pooing more than usual
- losing control of your bladder or bowels
- blood in your pee
- swelling in one or both legs
- severe vaginal bleeding
It's best to book it for when you have finished your period or for when you have finished treatment for an infection.
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The NHS says you should avoid using any vaginal medicines, lubricants or creams in the two days before you have your test as they can affect the results.
If you are worried about your cervix then you should book an appointment to see your GP.
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