Cervical cancer develops through pre-cancerous stages over many years and usually has no symptoms. A cervical screening test is the only way to find out if there are abnormal cells in the cervix that may develop into cervical cancer. Finding and treating pre-cancerous cervical cell changes will prevent them developing into cancer. 

  • estimated to be the 11th most commonly diagnosed cancer among females and third most commonly diagnosed gynaecological cancer in Australian women
  • an estimated 913 females were diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2021 
  • 237 female deaths from cervical cancer in 2021
  • 74% of patients with cervical cancer survive the 5 year mark


    Advanced cervical cancer is very uncommon, but it may cause:

    • extreme tiredness
    • leg pain or swelling
    • lower back pain.

    Known risk factors

    Prevention and screening

    Changes to cervical cells do not usually cause any early symptoms and is why regular Cervical Screening tests are extremely important.

    The Pap test has been replaced with a more effective procedure known as a Cervical Screening Test. For more information, visit the Cancer Australia website. Regular Cervical Screening tests have reduced the incidence of cervical cancer dramatically in countries of the developed world.

    In addition to not smoking, there are two important ways of preventing cervical cancer:

    • using the Cervical Screening test
    • the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Vaccination.

    Diagnosis and treatment

    Treatment depends on the stage of disease. Very early cervical cancer (microinvasive) can be treated by a cone biopsy or a simple hysterectomy. Patients with cervical cancer limited to the uterine cervix require a radical hysterectomy, at which a safety margin around the cancer is taken. These patients also require removal of lymph nodes along the large blood vessels in the pelvis. Patients with advanced disease (stage 2+) require a combination of chemotherapy (weekly) plus radiotherapy (daily) for four to six weeks. Survival depends on the stage of disease with more than 75% of patients surviving stage 1.

    Detailed information about diagnosis testing and treatment options can be found on the Cancer Australia website.

    Source: Cancer Australia 2021, Cancer Council 2021