Each year in the UK, approximately 3,000 women are diagnosed with Cervical Cancer.
In the early stages of the disease, there are often no obvious symptoms present, therefore, the best way to protect yourself is by attending cervical screening appointments. The NHS invites all women in England aged 25 – 49 for screening every 3 years and women aged 50 – 64 every 5 years.
In the UK alone, screening saves approximately 5,000 lives each year through the detection of abnormal cells prior to them becoming cancerous. Currently however, only 71% of women are up to date with screening appointments, with around 5 million overdue appointments.
It is also worrying to note that attendance at cervical screening appointments is dropping year on year. Whilst some women may find the test uncomfortable or embarrassing, it is vital to attend this free health test to help prevent cervical cancer at an early stage.
Why do some women say that they don’t attend?
1. I’m too busy to find time within surgery opening times
Cervical screening is usually carried out by Nurses, who in many cases offer early morning and later evening appointments, therefore allowing you to plan this around working hours. The appointment itself lasts only a matter of minutes
2. I’m embarrassed or concerned about my body
Nurses who perform screening tests are trained to complete the tests, ensuring patient dignity is maintained throughout. Cervical screening tests are provided to all women of all shapes and sizes. You can ask for a chaperone if you wish to support you.
3. Historical reasons
You may feel unable to attend a screening test as you have previously had a bad experience, or gynaecological problems, abnormal cells shown on a smear or you may be a survivor of sexual abuse or violence. Whatever the reason, the thought of attending a screening test may be traumatic. If you feel able to, discuss your past experience and concerns with the Nurse and what may assist you moving forward.
4. Physical or mental disability
Women with a physical and mental disability may feel that there is an additional barrier to them accessing a cervical screening test and therefore make the decision not to attend. If so, contact your GP surgery in advance to discuss your needs and explore the options available to you. They are there to help you.
If you have concerns or questions regarding attending a cervical screening appointment, support and information regarding the testing can be accessed through Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust.
The message from the medical world is clear – The sooner abnormal cells are detected the better the chance of a good outcome.