On 5 March, Public Health England (PHE) launches a major new campaign in the South West, ‘Cervical Screening Saves Lives’, to increase the number of women attending their cervical screening across the region. The campaign will encourage women to respond to their cervical screening invitation letter, and if they missed their last screening, to book an appointment at their GP practice.
Around 275 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer in the South West each year and around 62 women die from the disease. It is estimated that if everyone attended screening regularly, 83% of cervical cancer cases could be prevented.
New research from PHE shows that 90% of women eligible for screening would be happy to take a test that could help prevent cancer, and of those who have attended screening, nine in 10 would encourage others to attend. Despite this, screening is at a 20-year low, with one in four eligible women (those aged 25 – 64) in the UK not attending their test. r Uptake of screening in the South West is 73.7%, below the national standard of 80%.
The new PHE campaign provides practical information about how to make the test more comfortable and gives reassurance to women that screening is not a test for cancer. Regular screening only takes a few minutes and can help stop cervical cancer before it starts. The test identifies potentially harmful cells before they become cancerous and ensures women get the right treatment as soon as possible.
The PHE research shows that once women have been screened, the vast majority of women feel positive about the experience, with eight in 10 stating they are glad they went and that they were put at ease by the nurse or doctor doing the test .
Executive Lead for Health and Wellbeing, Cllr Jackie Stockman, said: “Cervical screening is one of the most important things women can do to protect themselves from the risk of cervical cancer. Screening can stop cancer before it starts and saves thousands of lives every year.
“Please don’t ignore your screening letter and put off having it done. The tests are usually done at your GP surgery by female nurses who are trained to make women feel more comfortable. It is a five minute test that could be lifesaving.”
Lead Consultant for Screening and Immunisation, Public Health England – South West, Dr Julie Yates, said: “We know that cervical screening rates are at a twenty year low with one in four women in the UK not attending. I want to reach out to all those women who may have not responded to their screening letters, or who may have missed a previous appointment, to arrange a screen now and stop putting it off. Regular screening means that cancer is usually detected early, which means that the outcomes for women are much better and the cancer is often much more treatable.
“We lead busy lives and I know from personal experience that a kind reminder from a friend or family member can make all the difference as to whether things get done or not. I want to reach out to all of you who have women in your lives to ask for your help by just doing this and by reminding any of them who might have missed or put off having a cervical screening test of the importance of having them, and to support and encourage them to make an appointment to get theirs done!”
For further information about cervical screening, please search ‘NHS Cervical Screening’ or visit www.nhs.uk/cervicalscreening.
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