GPs in Newham are urging women to attend regular cervical cancer screening to reduce their risk of developing the potentially-fatal disease.
Cervical screening – or smear tests – help identify pre-cancerous cells and treat women at increased risk of cervical cancer. This prevents around 75 per cent of cervical cancers from developing and saves an estimated 5,000 lives each year in the UK.
All women registered with a GP and aged between 25 and 64 are invited for a free NHS smear test every three to five years. However, despite the importance of screening, one in four women in England still fail to attend their smear test – and nine women are diagnosed with cervical cancer every day.
In Newham, only 59.6% of women aged between 25 and 49, and 77.9% of women aged between 50 and 64 attend their smear test when invited.
Ahead of Cervical Cancer Prevention Week (22-28 January), GPs in the borough are encouraging women not to miss out on their free NHS smear test.
Dr Prakash Chandra, chair of NHS Newham Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and a local GP, said:
“Regular cervical screening is crucial for protecting women against cervical cancer, as it helps ensure that pre-cancerous cells are spotted early and stopped from developing. It is deeply concerning that some women are still not taking the opportunity to have this free and potentially life-saving screening.
“I cannot emphasise enough the importance of women attending their smear test when invited. Prevention is key to improving cancer survival rates, and the CCG is supporting Cervical Cancer Prevention Week to increase screening uptake in Newham and help women reduce their risk of cervical cancer.
“It’s also essential women know the signs and symptoms of cervical cancer. If anyone experiences symptoms associated with cervical cancer, they should book an appointment with their GP.”
Symptoms of cervical cancer are not always obvious, and may not be present until the cancer has reached a late stage. These include:
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding – during or after sex, or between periods
- Pain and discomfort during sex
- Unusual vaginal discharge
- Lower back pain
A full list of symptoms is available at NHS Choices.
Cervical Cancer Prevention Week is an annual awareness campaign organised by Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust.
This year the theme is ‘reduce your risk’ and, as part of this, people are encouraged to join the #SmearForSmear campaign to highlight the importance of smear tests in preventing cervical cancer.
People are encouraged to take a selfie of themselves with smeared lipstick and sharing it on social media – accompanied by the hashtag #SmearForSmear
More information about the campaign and how to get involved can be found on Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust website.