Cervical Cancer Prevention Week

Do you know how cervical cancer can be prevented?

We want as many people as possible to know how they can reduce their risk of the disease. Smear tests can prevent cervical cancer and everyone should understand what the test is for. You should feel well informed and comfortable when you get your results.

Cervical screening, also known as a smear test, looks for changes to the cells of your cervix. It is a routine health check and not a test for cancer. It is used to prevent cancer by detecting changes before they can turn into cancer. Cervical screening is available to anyone with a cervix, who is between the ages of 25 and 64.

How to reduce your risk of cervical cancer

  • Attend cervical screening when invited
  • Know the symptoms of cervical cancer
  • Take up the HPV vaccination
  • Know where to find support and information

Facts about cervical screening

• 1 in 4 women don’t take up their smear test invitation
• 75% of cervical cancers are prevented by cervical screening
• Having a smear test saves 5000 lives every year
• You should get a reminder from your GP surgery
• Nobody can make you have a smear test. You have the right to say no.
• Cervical screening should not hurt. You can stop the test at any point if you are uncomfortable or in pain.
• You can take someone with you to make you feel less anxious
• You have the right to ask for a female nurse

Symptoms of cervical cancer

There are some recognised symptoms associated with cervical cancer that you should be aware of
• Lower back pain
• Pain during sex
• Bleeding between periods
• Unusual discharge
• Post-menopausal bleeding
• Bleeding during or after sex

If you have experienced any of these symptoms, you should contact your GP.

You should receive a letter from your GP surgery, asking you to go for a smear test. 9 out of 10 women will have a normal smear test result. This means nothing is wrong and you will be asked to go for another test in 3 or 5 years, depending on your age. Your screening will only take a minute or two; the whole appointment usually takes around ten minutes.

If everyone who is eligible attended their screening regularly, 83% of cervical cancer deaths could be prevented!

Frequent non-attenders for screening include:

  • Younger eligible women 25-29
  • Women over 50
  • Ethnic minorities
  • People from lower socio-economic groups
  • Women with learning disabilities
  • Lesbian and bisexual women

Many women do not attend for screening because:

  • They are embarrassed to have the test
  • They are worried about the result
  • They are concerned about the procedure and whether it will be painful
  • Access to screening and appointment times are inconvenient
  • They do not think they are at risk
  • They are simply unaware of screening

Top Tips for your Smear Test

  • Ask to book a longer appointment – more time to ask questions and feel ready for your smear test.
  • Ask for a smaller speculum – a smaller size may be more comfortable.
  • Wear a skirt or dress – you can keep it on during your smear test.
  • Talk to your nurse – if you need any support or have questions, your nurse can help.

This year, the #SmearForSmear campaign from Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust celebrate their 20th year! They want to change their campaign this year to #Smear the stigma and myths that exist around smear tests and HPV.

There are many types of HPV, over 200 in fact! They are split into low-risk and high-risk groups. Low-risk may not cause any problems or cause minor conditions like warts on your hands and feet and most HPV types are low risk. High-risk human papillomavirus is linked to some cancers and it’s important to remember that if you have any type of HPV, your body will usually get rid of it without any problems.

Around 13 types of HPV are linked to cancer and these types are high-risk. HPV has no symptoms, which means that many people may have had HPV without knowing. Cervical screening can find high-risk HPV viruses and changes early, before it develops into cancer.

80% of us will have HPV in our lives, and for something so common, there shouldn’t be so much shame, fear or confusion surrounding it. Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a common virus that 8 in 10 people will get. In most cases, your immune system will get rid of HPV without it causing any problems. HPV is usually passed on through sexual contact, which can make some people feel worried or embarrassed, but it’s nothing to be ashamed of.

Read more about HPV here.

Facts about HPV

• At some point in our lives, 4 out of 5 of us will get at least one type of HPV
• Around 90% of HPV infections clear within 2 years
• You don’t usually have any symptoms, so you may not even know you had it
• HPV lives on our skin, so it is easy to get and difficult to completely protect against
• You are at risk of getting HPV from your first sexual contact

More info about HPV

HPV Vaccination

If you are aged between 11 and 18, you can reduce the risk of cervical cancer by receiving the HPV vaccine to help protect against cervical cancer.

This vaccine is now available to girls and boys and it’s important that you have both doses of the vaccine to be fully protected. Find out more about the recent changes to the HPV vaccine under the NHS vaccination schedule here. If you missed the vaccination at school, you are eligible to be vaccinated until you are 25 years old. (Those who start the HPV vaccination after the age of 15 will need 3 doses).

There are lots of ways in which you can help and support the fight against cervical cancer. You can reduce your own risk, the risk to others and ensure that you’re aware of the symptoms of cervical cancer. Attending your smear test is important and the more people that attend, the more lives that can be saved.

If you have received a #SmearTest reminder or if you think you should be due one and have not received a letter, please contact your GP practice and arrange an appointment at your earliest convenience. Remember that the appointment only lasts for 10 minutes and The Roxton Practice run over 3 different sites in Immingham, Keelby and Grimsby.

Don’t ignore your cervical screening invite! #CervicalScreeningSavesLives

Book now!