Despite the 5 minute smear test preventing up to 75% of cervical cancers, 1 in 4 women do not attend this potentially life-saving appointment.
In 99.7% of cases, cervical cancers are caused by persistent high-risk human papilloma virus (HPV) infections. HPV is a common virus transmitted through skin to skin contact in the genital area; with around 80% of sexually active adults picking up an infection at some point in their lives.
However, for a majority of women, this doesn’t result in cervical cancer.
Nowadays, a HPV vaccination is also available through the NHS for girls aged 12-18, which can reduce the risk of contracting the types of HPV that cause most cervical cancers.
During a life course, a woman’s cervix also undergoes many natural changes and, in rare cases, these changes can see the cells lining the cervix become cancerous. Fortunately, cell changes in the cervix can be detected at a very early stage and treatment can reduce the risk of
cervical cancer developing.
Cancer of the cervix often has no symptoms in its early stages.
If you do have symptoms, the most common is unusual vaginal bleeding; which can occur after sex, in between periods or after the menopause.
Other symptoms of cervical cancer may include pain and discomfort during sex and an unpleasant smelling vaginal discharge. While these symptoms don’t mean you definitely have cervical cancer, they should be investigated by your GP as soon as possible. As with any cancer, it is best to catch the disease early, making it important to get all potential symptoms checked out.
Every year, thousands of women between the ages of 25 and 64 are invited to cervical cancer screening appointments across the UK. Screenings commonly take place at your local doctors surgery, and you can request a female doctor or nurse to complete the test if you prefer.
You can expect an invitation in the post from your GP to book your screening; so make sure your details are up to date with your local doctors surgery to ensure you recieve your letter. If you don’t receive your invite, make sure you contact you doctors to avoid missing your test.
Women aged 25–49 are invited every three years and women aged 50–64 are invited every five years to screenings.
During the smear test, a small sample of cells from your cervix is collected with a tool called a speculum. Speculums come in different sizes, so if you are
uncomfortable during the test, you can ask for a smaller size. While some women find the procedure a bit uncomfortable or embarrassing, for most it’s not painful; just remember to relax.
The entire process takes about five minutes and could save your life.
If you’re at all anxious about your test, the Jo’s Cervical Cancer trust helpline is open to answer any queries. After the sample has been taken, the cells are taken to a laboratory and checked under a microscope for abnormalities. This process usually takes 2 weeks before you receive your results.
95% of screening test results will be normal. And, for the small percentage that aren’t, the vast majority can be treated very easily and will never develop into cancer.
Despite these statistics, almost half a million young women aged 25-29 did not attend cervical screening last year, with 1 in 4 delaying smear tests due to embarrassment.
This year, Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust’s #smearforsmear campaign aims to change the trend in women delaying or avoiding their screenings.
Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust is dedicated to cervical cancer in the UK, and during the week of the 22-28th January, the charity looks to raise recognition of the disease and it’s prevention.
With public knowledge and understanding of cervical cancer prevention, causes and treatments generally low, the Cervical Cancer Awareness Week aims to help raise recognition of cervical cancer through a range of initiatives and events throughout the UK.
This includes the #smearforsmear campaign which encourages women to share the mesage about attending their screenings on social media. Simply post a lipstick smeared selfie online during January’s Cervical Cancer Prevention Week to get involved.
Not only this, but the charity runs the ‘Time to Test’ iniative, which prompts employers to recognise the importance of cervical screening appointments.
Ensuring female employees can have the time to attend, the trust encourages businesses to allow women to have time off if they are unable to get an appointment outside of working hours.
Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust is here for all women to help to ease any worries about the screening process or diagnosis.
Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust works to provide information to all women, and also support those affected with help lines, online forums and opportunities to meet others in a similar situation for advice.
While providing the highest quality information and support for those affected, the trust also campaigns for excellence in cervical cancer treatment and prevention.