21 January 2019
The NHS Cervical Screening Programme has made a significant impact on cervical cancer deaths since it was established in 1988 - saving an estimated 5,000 lives a year.
However, take up for screening is, according to Public Health England, at a 20-year low with NHS figures showing that in 2018 only 71% of women aged 25 to 64 were adequately tested.
To promote awareness, cancer charity Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust is again promoting, among other things, the SmearForSmear campaign. The campaign encourages women who have taken their test to picture themselves on social media with part of their make-up smeared across their face.
It will run throughout Cervical Cancer Prevention Week from Monday January 21 to Sunday 27, with the charity hoping that one woman’s post might just provide encouragement to other women and remind them of the importance of being screened.
Then, in March, Public Health England is planning to launch a national campaign to coincide with the tenth anniversary of the death of TV reality star Jade Goody.
The idea behind both campaigns is to:
- highlight the risks of cervical cancer and the preventative benefits of the often misunderstood screening test and encourage women of all ages to respond to their screening invitation
- encourage women to consider booking an appointment if they have missed previous invitations
- tackle issues of fear and embarrassment
At Spire Parkway Hospital, in Solihull, (near Birmingham) West Midlands, Consultant Gynaecologist Ms Kavita Singh said: “The single biggest risk factor for developing cervical cancer is not being regularly screened. It is a preventable disease. The signs that it may develop can be often be spotted early and it can be treated before it even fully starts.
“While around 750 women each year die from cervical cancer in the UK, it appears that nearly one and a half million women a year are missing out on their tests.”
Women aged 25 to 49 are invited to attend cervical screening, or smear tests, every three years; those aged 50 to 64 are invited every five years. The screening can detect abnormal (pre-cancerous) cells in the cervix in order to prevent cervical cancer.
Ms Singh said: “It is important to get the message across that cervical screening is not a test for cancer, but instead allows for detection of abnormalities at an early stage.
“The routine of attending a cervical screening should be an important part of every woman’s health regime but for many women this message just isn’t getting through. Early detection is key to increasing survival rates so educating everyone about the disease, its symptoms and ways to prevent it is very important.”
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