Every year in the UK, around 3,000 women and people with a cervix (the entrance to the womb from the vagina) are diagnosed with cervical cancer, writes Dr Jonty Heaversedge, GP at Manor Place Surgery and Chair of NHS Southwark Clinical Commissioning Group…
While there’s no single way to prevent cervical cancer, there are ways of reducing the risk. Finding and treating it at an early stage is key to successful treatment and can help save lives.
Cervical screening – known as a ‘smear test’ – checks for pre-cancerous cells which can be easily treated to eliminate the risk of cancer developing.
All women and people with a cervix aged between 25 and 64 – and registered with a GP – are invited for a free NHS smear test every three to five years.
The five-minute test prevents around 75% of cervical cancers from developing, saving an estimated 5,000 lives each year in the UK.
However, almost a third of those eligible for free NHS smear tests in Southwark do not attend – and therefore miss out on potentially life-saving screening.
As part of Cervical Cancer Prevention Week 2019 (21-27 January), my colleagues and I are urging women and people with a cervix in Southwark to attend their regular screening appointments when invited.
You’ll receive a letter through the post asking you to make a screening appointment, and your GP practices will follow this up with a text message reminding you to book.
And if you think you may have missed your free NHS smear test, just contact your GP practice.
Don’t be embarrassed or put off by the idea of attending an appointment. It’s free and could save your life!
Anyone can get involved in next week’s campaign and help raise awareness of the importance of smear testing by joining #SmearForSmear on social media.
Just put on some lipstick, smear it across your cheek, take a selfie and share it on social media – accompanied by the hashtags – #SmearForSmear and #Southwark.
The more people who take part, the greater the likelihood that we will increase screening uptake in Southwark – and help save lives.
Cervical screening is vital in reducing the risk of cervical cancer, but it’s also essential to recognise the signs and symptoms of the disease – and visit your GP if concerned.
While symptoms are not always obvious (hence the importance of regular screening), they can include:
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding – during or after sex or between periods
- Pain and discomfort during sex
- Unusual vaginal discharge
Go to www.nhs.uk for a full list of cervical cancer symptoms.
Cervical Cancer Prevention Week and #SmearForSmear is an annual awareness campaign organised by Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust. Find out more: www.jostrust.org.uk