Women are seeking more private cervical screens than ever before

Spire Healthcare is witnessing more women than ever seeking advice on their gynaecological well-being.

One of the UK’s largest private hospital providers, Spire Healthcare, is seeing a significant rise in enquiries from women requesting information and appointments for private smear tests throughout its 36 hospitals. Local hospital Gatwick Park has witnessed an 20 % increase in enquiries this year compared to last year. Screens and consultations with gynaecologists are readily available and the results are obtained within five days, potentially helping to reduce anxiety and allowing women to positively take control of their health.

The NHS currently offers a national cervical cancer screening programme for women aged 25 and over. A woman is typically called for a screening appointment once every three to five years. Cancer Research UK* states that that changes in the cervix are more common in younger women resulting in a high return of abnormal rest results and high incidence of patient testing recall.

Director of Clinical Services for Spire Healthcare, Dr JJ de Gorter, comments:

“The proportion of women aged 25-30 having NHS cervical screening has fallen in recent years from 80% in 1995 to 70% in 2005/6**. However, such screening is extremely important and it is encouraging to see more women actively seeking private testing and being responsible for their gynaecological well-being. Though abnormalities are rare, treatment outcomes are better the earlier they are detected. Regular and consistent screening plays an important part in this. The recent increase in enquiries and appointments demonstrates just how women are taking cervical screening more seriously than ever before and the message about the importance being screened is getting heard.”

Spire has also identified a rise in the number of enquiries for the HPV (Human Papilloma virus) vaccination Gardasil, the cervical cancer and genital wart vaccine, which is currently not available on the NHS. Designed to prevent infection with HPV types 6, 11, 16, 18 it is recommended that Gardasil is given before HPV infection occurs in order to be effective, i.e. before adolescence and the onset of sexual activity.

If you would like further information on the vaccine, or testing for HPV, contact Spire Gatwick Park Hospital on 01293 778906.

HPV Explained by Dr Usha Natarajan, Spire Gatwick Park Hospital

What is HPV?

Human papilloma virus (HPV) infection is a sexually transmitted virus. There are around 15 types which can cause cervical cancer. In addition there are a number of types which can cause genital warts. It is estimated that HPV types 16 and 18 cause about 70% of cases cervical cancer while HPV types 6 and 11 cause 90% of genital warts.

How common is cervical cancer?

According to Cancer Research UK, each year in the UK, over 2,800 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer. About 4.4million women are invited for cervical screening each year.

How common is the HPV virus?

HPV is easily transmitted by genital skin-to-skin contact mainly through sexual activity. Whilst not everyone who is infected with HPV develops cervical cancer, it is still a very common virus.

Does a routine smear test pick up HPV?

No. The NHS does not test for HPV during the normal smear test. If a smear test identifies abnormalities which may point to HPV, a screen for high risk types of HPV can be performed.

Does the virus affect men as well as women?

Men can have HPV, but most who do never develop any symptoms or health problems. However, some types of HPV can cause genital warts and other types are possible causes of penile or anal cancer.

How long does the vaccination last?

The results of the vaccination programme may not be noticed for at least 10 years or more. Current evidence suggests that the HPV vaccine offers 100% protection, which lasts for at least 5 years, although some research suggests that it will last a lifetime.

* http://www.cancerhelp.org.uk/help/default.asp?page=2756
** http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/7174723.stm

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