During Cervical Cancer Prevention Week (21 to 27 January) NHS North Kirklees and NHS Greater Huddersfield Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) want as many people as possible to know how they can reduce their risk of the disease and urge all young women to attend their cervical smear test when invited – it could save lives.
Cervical cancer can be prevented and there are steps that women can take to reduce their risk of the disease and look after their health:
- Attending cervical screening when invited
- Knowing the symptoms of cervical cancer and seeking medical advice if experiencing any
- Taking up the HPV vaccination if aged 11-18
- Knowing where to find support and further information
Every year in the UK, around 3,000 women will be diagnosed with cervical cancer. Cervical cancer is the most common cancer in women aged 35 and under. Cervical cancer develops in a woman’s cervix (the entrance to the womb from the vagina). It mainly affects sexually active women aged between 30 and 45.
For some people the thought of going for a cervical smear test can be embarrassing, often people think it’s painful, or it can seem a scary or daunting prospect for other reasons. However, the test takes five minutes, it’s painless, and you really can’t put a price on taking the right steps early on to protect your health.
Dr Steve Ollerton, Chair, NHS Greater Huddersfield CCG and local GP said: “It is crucial that you attend your cervical screening appointment. One of the biggest risk factors for developing cervical cancer is not going for a cervical screening test. So our message is clear – don’t ignore the invitation letter!”
Cllr Musarrat Khan, Cabinet Member – Health and Social Care, Kirklees Council added: “We all lead busy lives and it’s easy to put aside a letter to sort out later, and then forget about it. I would urge all women who are due a test to make an appointment and attend, don’t let anything put you off, as this test could save your life.”
The NHS offers a cervical screening programme to all women from the age of 25. You should be sent a letter confirming when your screening appointment is due. Contact your GP practice if you think you may be overdue for a screening appointment.
Robert Music, Chief Executive, Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust said: “Cervical screening provides the best protection against cervical cancer yet sadly attendance is at an all-time low. Going for a test can be difficult for some women and we want to ensure every woman knows where they can find support and information to enable them to book a test if they want to. No question or concern is too big or too weird and your nurse is there to make your test as comfortable as possible.”
Cervical screening isn’t a test for cancer; it’s a test to check the health of the cells of the cervix (the entrance to the womb). Nationally, Between 90 and 94% of all screening results come back normal, with no abnormalities found.
The symptoms of cervical cancer aren’t always obvious, and it may not cause any symptoms at all until it’s reached an advanced stage. This is why it’s very important that women attend all of their cervical screening appointments.
If you do have symptoms, the most common is abnormal vaginal bleeding, which can occur during or after sex, in between periods, or new bleeding after you have been through the menopause. Abnormal bleeding doesn’t mean you have cervical cancer, but you should see your GP as soon as possible to get it checked out.
Other symptoms include unusual vaginal discharge, discomfort or pain during sexual intercourse and lower back pain.
If your GP thinks you might have cervical cancer, you should be referred to see a specialist within 2 weeks.
Dr David Kelly, Chair of NHS North Kirklees CCG said: “We want to increase the understanding about cervical screening and how vital it is for women to have regular smear tests because these tests really can save lives. Smear tests are quick and painless. This simple test can highlight women who need early treatment and can, therefore, prevent unnecessary deaths.”
To find out more about Cervical Cancer Prevention Week visit the Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust website www.jostrust.org.uk. For more information about cervical cancer and the NHS Cervical Screening Programme visit https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/cervical-cancer/