All eligible women aged 25 to 64 are being urged to take five minutes to have a cervical screening test (previously known as a “smear test”). The importance of cervical screening is being highlighted in the run up to Cervical Screening Awareness Week which takes place from Monday 11 – Sunday 17 June 2018.
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. The best way to protect yourself from cervical cancer is by attending cervical screening when invited.
Dr David Kelly, Chair, NHS North Kirklees Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and local GP 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.
“Women have no need to be embarrassed by the tests which are quick and painless. A simple smear test enables women to receive treatment before it is too late, preventing unnecessary deaths. So our message is clear: don’t ignore your smear test.”
Dr Steve Ollerton, Clinical Leader, NHS Greater Huddersfield CCG added: “Cervical screening isn’t a test for cancer, it’s a test to check the health of the cells of the cervix. Most women’s test results show that everything is normal, but for around 1 in 20 women the test shows some abnormal changes in the cells of the cervix.
Most of these changes won’t lead to cervical cancer and the cells may go back to normal on their own. However, in some cases the abnormal cells need to be removed so they can’t become cancerous.”
The aim of the NHS Cervical Screening Programme is to reduce the number of women who develop cervical cancer and the number of women who die from the condition. All women who are registered with a GP are invited for cervical screening as follows:
- aged 25 to 49 – every 3 years
- aged 50 to 64 – every 5 years
- over 65 – only women who haven’t been screened since age 50 or those who have recently had abnormal tests.
You’ll receive a letter through the post asking you to make an appointment for a cervical screening test. The letter should contain the details of the place you need to contact for the appointment. Screening is usually carried out by the practice nurse at your GP clinic. You can ask to have a female doctor or nurse.
Emily Parry-Harries, Consultant in Public Health, Kirklees Council added: “Every year in the UK, around 3,000 women will be diagnosed with cervical cancer. Screening involves testing people for early stages of a disease before they have any symptoms. Cervical screening is a way of preventing cancer by finding and treating abnormal cell changes in the neck of the womb (cervix). These changes could lead to cancer if left untreated, highlighting why cervical screening is so important.”
Women are also being reminded to be aware of some recognised symptoms which may indicate cervical cancer. These include abnormal vaginal bleeding, pain and discomfort during sex, unusual or unpleasant vaginal discharge, and pain in your lower back or pelvis.
You should contact your GP if you experience:
- bleeding after sex
- bleeding outside of your normal periods
- new bleeding after the menopause
Vaginal bleeding is very common and can have a wide range of causes, so it does not necessarily mean you have cervical cancer. However, unusual vaginal bleeding needs to be investigated by your GP.