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Not so simple. The impact of cervical cell changes and treatment

Our new research, "Not so simple. The impact of cervical cell changes and treatment" looks at the experiences of women diagnosed with cervical cell changes (abnormal cells).

While many women who have treatment will have a straightforward and positive experience we've found that this is not the case for all women.

"I had a LLETZ but at no point beforehand was I told what it was or what & why it was happening. I was young, on my own and absolutely terrified and I wish I’d refused to have it at that point and insisted on making another appointment for another time."

Cervical cell changes in the UK

Around 220,000 women are diagnosed with cell changes every year in the UK. Treatment, given to prevent development of cervical cancer, is highly effective with about a 90% success rate.

Cervical cell changes researchAs with all surgical procedures there can be side effects yet we have found women having treatment are not being informed about potential side effects leaving many are unprepared for impacts such as pelvic pain, bleeding, anxiety and changes to sex life. 

  • One in five said possible impacts of treatment were not explained to them at all with variation in the number aware of specific side effects
  • While 86% experienced bleeding or spotting for up to 6 weeks, one in seven (15%) was unaware of this common side effect
  • Just 9% were told they could experience changes to their sex life yet psychological changes, including loss of desire, were profound (46%), sometimes resulting in complete loss of sex life for extended periods. 33% experienced pain during or after sex following treatment
  • The psychological impact was stark (anxiety; 71%, depression; 24%, fear of cancer; 86%), yet only 10% were made aware they may experience these feelings

"Clinicians should not be so blasé about things they deal with on a day to day basis. For a lot of us, it comes as a shock and we fear the worst. Even now, many years after the initial abnormality, I have a fear of developing cervical cancer because of the HPV"

We want to see greater awareness of the impact a diagnosis of cell changes can bring along with more information and support offered to women.

Download the full report & recommendations >

Share the report

#NotSoSimple? A new report by @JoTrust/@joscervicalcancertrust highlights gaps in information and support provided to women affected by cervical cell changes. Read it now: www.jostrust.org.uk/notsosimple

“It was important as it reduced [my] risk of cancer, but I would like much more acknowledgment and support on potential negative effects of treatment.”

Get information and support

If you have had cell changes, we are here to support you:

  • We have a free helpline you can call on 0808 802 8000 to get information, ask questions and talk through how you may be feeling.
  • Read information about colposcopy, cell changes and treatment on our website.

Help us support more women

We are here to support everyone affected by cell changes and cervical cancer. You can help us support more women by making a donation. Just £10 can help us answer a question through our Ask the Expert service, providing vital information and support to women having treatment for cell changes.

Make a donation today >


This report was released during Cervical Screening Awareness Week (10 - 16 June 2019). Find out more about the campaign and how to get involved >

Date last updated: 
05 Jun 2019