Knowsley Council is supporting Cervical Screening Awareness Week, 20 to 26 June, highlighting the benefits of screening and addressing some of the concerns people may have about cervical screening appointments.
It’s a sad fact that around 2,700 women in England are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year and it is the second most common cancer amongst women under 35, yet it is one of the most preventable cancers.
Regular cervical screening, also known as a smear test, can help prevent cervical cancer before it starts by identifying potentially harmful cells. These cell changes can be treated and cervical cancer prevented from developing.
Cervical Screening saves lives
It is estimated that in England, cervical screening prevents 70% of cervical cancer deaths and that if everyone attended screening regularly, 83% of cervical cancer deaths could be prevented.
The symptoms of cervical cancer are not always obvious, and it may not cause any symptoms at all until it’s reached an advanced stage. That’s why it’s important that you respond to your cervical screening invitation letters and if you missed your last one book an appointment at your GP practice or local sexual health clinic.
Screening information and tips
Women and people with a cervix aged 25-64 are eligible for screening. Those registered as female with their GP practice are invited for routine screening every three years if they are aged 25-49 and every five years if they are aged 50-64. Those registered as male will need to request an appointment from their GP or a local sexual health clinic.
There’s information and advice for anyone who may be worried or embarrassed about cervical screening:
- For most, cervical screening tests are not painful. But if you are worried that you may find the test uncomfortable, remember you are in control and can ask to stop at any time.
- Discuss your concerns with your nurse, you can ask for a smaller speculum, or the nurse can advise you on different positions to make it more comfortable.
- If you want to make sure that a nurse of a particular gender carries out your test, you can ask for this when you make your appointment.
- You might want to wear a skirt or dress or a long jumper, which you can keep on during the test. If you forget to do this, don’t worry – you’ll be provided with a disposable modesty sheet to cover yourself.
- Ask your nurse about breathing exercises, as these can help. Take a podcast or music to listen to – this may help you relax or distract you.
- Cervical screening only lasts a few minutes, and you only have to go once every 3 or 5 years depending on your age. It’s a few minutes that could save your life.
Cllr Christine Bannon, Knowsley’s Cabinet Member for Health, said
“Cervical Screening Awareness Week is an opportunity to empower women and people with a cervix to attend their screening appointment and not to feel embarrassed. Talk to the nurse or doctor before they do the test with any concerns you may have, and they will help put you at ease.
“Life can be hectic and it’s easy to let your cervical screening appointment fall to the bottom of your ‘to do’ list but regular cervical screening, also known as a smear test, can help stop cervical cancer before it starts by identifying potentially harmful cells. The screening test only lasts a few minutes, and it could save your life.”
For more information, visit Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust website.