This week is Cervical Cancer Prevention Week, which focuses on raising awareness about the symptoms and causes of cervical cancer, as well as the steps we can all take to prevent the disease.
The most important step women over the age of 25 should be taking is booking themselves in for a cervical screening, or smear test. Smear tests are so important, because they can detect early abnormalities in the cervix, which can be treated before they lead to cancer. Worryingly, more and more women are skipping their smear tests which means there is no way of knowing if any abnormalities have occurred since their last test. If these abnormalities are detected quickly the cells can be removed and can’t become cancerous. So those few minutes of discomfort could be potentially lifesaving.
This was the case for me. I feel particularly strongly about this issue because during a smear test a few years ago abnormal cells were found on the surface of my cervix. Fortunately, the cells were detected and removed before they could spread to nearby normal cells and become cancerous. I now have an annual smear test in order to make sure everything is normal.
Regular smear tests coupled with the HPV vaccination programme has meant cervical cancer is now largely preventable: the number of cases has decreased by about 7% every year since the Cervical Screening Programme was first introduced, which is great news. Yet every day in the UK, 8 women are diagnosed with the disease and 3 of these women will lose their lives to it.
This is why it is really important for women aged between 25 and 49 to go for a smear test every three years, or every 5 years if you’re over 50. If you haven’t been before, there’s nothing to worry about. It only takes a few minutes, and if you’re feeling nervous you can always request to be seen by a female doctor or nurse. So if you’re currently ignoring a reminder letter from your doctor, or if you keep putting off making your first appointment, I really hope you use this week to book yourself in for a smear test. It’s quick, it’s free, and it could save your life.
For more information on cervical cancer, you can visit the following sites:
- This page provides details of local sexual health clinics in Lewisham.
- You can find further information about what to expect at a Cervical Screening test here.
- Or for more information about how to get involved in Cervical Cancer Prevention Week, you can find more details on Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust’s website.