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Cervical screening saves lives

by Cathy Sheel

A new national campaign ‘Cervical Screening Saves Lives’ aims to highlight the benefits of cervical cancer screening and remind people that it can help stop cancer before it starts.

The campaign encourages those eligible for screening – women and people with a cervix aged 25-64 – to respond to their cervical screening invitation letters and to book an appointment at their GP practice if they missed their last one.

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 attend all your cervical screening appointments.

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.

The campaign provides information and tips to those who may be worried or embarrassed about cervical screening. These include:

  • 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 a woman 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: ”This campaign aims 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.

“Cervical cancer is one of the most preventable cancers and regular cervical screening, also known as a smear test, can help stop cervical cancer before it starts by preventing potentially harmful cells from developing. The screening test only lasts a few minutes, and it could save your life.”

For more information, visit the NHS website.