Today (22/1) marks the start of Cervical Cancer Prevention week which is themed ‘Reduce your risk’. The week aims to raise awareness of the importance of cervical screening and its role in preventing cancer, as well as encouraging women to go for their screening test when invited.
Every day 9 women in the UK are diagnosed with cervical cancer and 2 women will lose their lives to the disease. Cervical cancer is the most common cancer in women under 35 but is largely preventable thanks to cervical screening and the HPV vaccination programme.
However, statistics show that the number of women aged 25-29 years of age being screened for cervical cancer is the lowest in any age group and numbers attending for screening are falling year on year. Surveys undertaken by cancer charities indicate embarrassment and a lack of understanding of the causes of cervical cancer may be behind the fall in numbers attending.
The number of women dying from cervical cancer has halved over the past 28 years as a result of the NHS screening programme as well as improvement in treatment.
Despite this success, over 5,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year and over 900 die each year from this. Some of these women diagnosed with cervical cancer have delayed coming forward for screening which has impacted on their ability to have early changes treated.
Dr Anant Sachdev, local GP and the clinical commissioning lead for cancer across East Berkshire, said: “With there being a national decline in the uptake of cervical screening in some age groups, now is as an important time as any to raise awareness of the different ways cervical cancer can be prevented.
“It is really important for women to understand the importance of attending cervical screening when they receive a letter from their GP as it can detect pre-cancer abnormalities, which, if left untreated, may develop into cancer. Screening is for people without symptoms as a preventative measure.
” The screening test is relatively simple, takes about 5 minutes and is performed by the Practice Nurse at your GP Surgery.”
Note to editors: Throughout the week, East Berkshire Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) will be using social media channels to raise awareness of the facts around cervical cancer and the screening programme.
Cervical screening charity Jo’s Trust undertook research amongst women aged 25-29 in 2013 which indicated that:
One in three do not take up the invite for cervical screening
20.3% think cervical screening is an unnecessary health test
29.5% think cervical screening is not important to have regularly
• Cervical screening is offered to all women aged 25 to 64 years old, with women aged 25 to 49 screened three yearly and women aged 50 to 64 screened every five years.
• The HPV vaccine was introduced in 2008 for girls aged 17 and is now given to girls at school when they reach 12 and 13. It is still important for women who have been vaccinated to practice safe sex and to take up screening when they reach 25. Recent research published in the Lancet indicates that maintaining and increasing screening coverage in unvaccinated women will remain a challenge for the next 25 years.
• Please see the embedded leaflet produced by Cancer Research UK which explains how to reduce your risk of cervical cancer, what signs and symptoms to look out for and what cervical screening is.