The 10th-16th of June marks Cervical Cancer Awareness Week, an important annual campaign to improve and raise awareness of women’s health issues. While many women feel anxious about attending these appointments, cervical cancer screening saves lives, so putting them off can have dangerous health implications.
Find out more about this vital test, including how and when you should get yours.
The importance of cervical cancer screening
Cervical Cancer Awareness week is the perfect reminder to go and book your screening appointment. Run by Jo’s Trust, this annual awareness campaign aims to spread the message about why cervical screening is important. It also provides vital information and advice to women about accessing cervical screen tests.
Cervical cancer is one of the most preventable cancers in the UK. Through screenings and the HPV vaccine, 99.8% of cases of cervical cancer are preventable. When the cancer is detected early, often in its precancerous stage, it can be stopped from developing into cancer and spreading.
Screening programmes save thousands of lives each year, so it’s important that all females over the age of 25 stay on top of their cervical cancer screening appointments. Why then, do so many women put them off?
Signs and symptoms of cervical cancer
Cervical screening can help detect cancer in its very early stages by identifying abnormal cells that can later develop into cancer. The signs and symptoms of cervical cancer can be hard to detect, which makes screening all the more important. Some of the symptoms you might experience include:
- Pain or bleeding during/after sex
- Bleeding between periods
- Bleeding after menopause
- Lower back or pelvic pain
Many of these symptoms could be explained by other conditions, but it’s important to consult your GP if they are ongoing.
What happens during a cervical screening test?
A cervical screening test is a short and simple test which takes a sample of cells from your cervix to detect any changes. Women in England aged 25-64 are invited to a cervical cancer screening every 3 to 5 years depending on their age. The appointment lasts around 10 minutes and is usually performed by a nurse.
At your screening, you’ll be asked to undress from the waist down (although you might not need to if you’re wearing a dress or skirt), before lying down on the table. The nurse inserts a small device called a speculum into your vagina that provides access to the cervix. The nurse will then collect cells using a tiny brush before you are asked to get dressed again. It can be an uncomfortable procedure for some women, but the majority find it painless. The whole appointment is over in a matter of minutes and you’ll receive the results within 14 days.
While you might feel nervous about your cervical screening test, there are some things you can do to ease your anxiety. You can bring a friend or relative with you to help you stay relaxed, and you can practice breathing exercises during the procedure. It helps to talk to your nurse about any concerns you might have, as they can help make the experience more comfortable for you.
Book an appointment with your GP for your test
Cancers such as cervical and ovarian cancer can be difficult to detect, but screenings are making a significant difference to the number of people affected by cervical cancer. Screening is free in the UK, and all women should take advantage of the opportunity to prevent this deadly disease. If you’ve never had an appointment, or think you could be overdue, book a cervical screening test with your GP today.
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