‘Don’t ignore your invitation for a smear test – it could save your life’.
That’s the message from GPs in Newham as a new campaign is launched to encourage women in the borough to attend cervical screening.
Cervical cancer screening, also known as a smear test, is a free health test that checks for cell changes in a person’s cervix caused by high-risk human papillomavirus (HPV).
The Cervical Screening Saves Lives campaign is aimed at empowering women with the knowledge and tools to get screened. However, national screening rates for the disease are currently at a 20-year low, with one in four women in the UK not attending their test.
In light of this, the Public Health England campaign is encouraging all women to respond to their cervical screening invitation letters and, if they have missed previous opportunities to attend an appointment, to book a free test at their GP practice.
GPs say attending screening appointments can be crucial because early diagnosis and treatment of cancer greatly increases the chances of survival.
Dr Bapu Sathyajith, a local GP and board member at NHS Newham Clinical Commissioning Group, (CCG) said:
“Cervical screening is so important in picking up the potential for developing cervical cancer and stopping it in its tracks before it becomes life threatening.
“I encourage all local women to take control of their health and their future health by taking the opportunity to attend their screening appointment. If you’ve been invited for screening, please call your GP and book an appointment.
“The screening test only lasts a few minutes and it can help stop cervical cancer before it starts by preventing potentially harmful cells from developing. It is ultimately a person’s own choice on whether to take a smear test, but testing is estimated to save 5,000 lives a year.”
Everyone aged 25 to 64 with a cervix, which is most women and many trans people, are invited to attend cervical screening every three or five years depending on their age.
You can make the test more comfortable by:
- Talking to your nurse – they are trained and experienced in how to support you
- Wearing a loose skirt or dress – this can help you feel more covered during your appointment
- Taking friend or family member with you if it helps you feel more relaxed.
A cervical screening appointment lasts about five minutes, and you only have to go once every three or five years depending on your age. It is five minutes that could save your life.
For more information on cervical screening, visit www.nhs.uk/cervicalscreening