Cervical cancer is one of our most preventable cancers. Thanks to the HPV vaccination, cervical cancer cases are 100% preventable, but for those who haven’t had the vaccine – screening is vital to detect the disease. Cervical Screening Awareness Week takes place from 11-17 June this year in a bid to help raise awareness of cervical screening and encourage woman all over the UK to book their appointment. Are you up to date on your screening? Find out more about Cervical Screening Awareness Week.
What is Cervical Screening Awareness Week?
Cervical Screening Awareness Week is an annual campaign to raise awareness of the importance of cervical screening. The main charity behind the campaign, Jo’s Trust, campaigns to make tests more accessible, and to make sure that women understand the importance of screening.
Jo’s Trust will celebrate its 20th birthday next year, after being set up in 1999 by James Maxwell, whose wife, Jo, sadly lost her battle with cervical cancer. It was Jo’s wish that women were better informed about the disease, and that they had access to the support that they needed. Cervical Screening Awareness Week is one of its most prominent campaigns and gives a real opportunity to start the conversation about cervical screening.
This year the charity will aim to tackle the barriers to screening such as feeling embarrassed or anxious, or not being able to book an appointment. 75% of cervical cancer incidents can be prevented through screening, and with a quarter of women failing to attend their screening – more needs to be done to prevent cervical cancer deaths in the UK.
Cervical cancer in the UK
Cervical cancer is the most common form of cancer in women under 35, and can be detected early through regular screening. Women in England are invited to screenings after their 25th birthday, and every three years after that.
Screening will detect abnormal cells present in the cervix which, when caught early, can be treated to stop them becoming cancerous cells. With this, and the HPV vaccine now being offered to girls aged 12-18, incidents of cervical cancer can be greatly reduced.
About cervical cancer screening
Booking an appointment
You will receive a letter after your 25th birthday inviting you to attend a screening. When you receive this letter, you will need to contact your GP to book an appointment. It’s important that you are registered with a doctor and that your address is up to date for you to receive the letter.
When to book
It’s recommended that you book your smear test halfway through your cycle, at around 14 days, and to avoid making the appointment during your period. You should also avoid using lubricants and spermicides for 24 hours before your test to avoid the chemicals affecting the results.
What happens during a screening
During a screening, you’ll be asked to undress from the waist down (may not be necessary if you’re wearing a dress or skirt) and lie on the table. Your nurse will insert a device known as a speculum to be able to allow access to the cervix. They’ll use a small brush to collect cells from your cervix and then allow you to get dressed again. While the procedure can be uncomfortable, most women find it painless, and the whole thing is over in around 5 minutes.
Results from the test are normally sent within two weeks. You will either be given a normal result and invited for another test in 3 years, be asked to return for another test because the results are unclear, or you’ll be advised on the next steps if you’ve been diagnosed with an abnormal result.
Raising awareness of cervical cancer screening
You can do your bit to get involved in Cervical Cancer Awareness Week by spreading the word on social media using the hashtag #SmearTestsSaveLives. You can also get involved in fundraising events in your local community, school or workplace to help raise money for Jo’s Trust to help make sure all women have access to a screening. Meanwhile, you can contact your local MP to help them highlight the issue in their constituency.
Cervical screening is important, and with increased awareness, could prevent cervical cancer. To find out more about cervical screening, visit the NHS Choices website, where you’ll find access to many resources. Stay up to date with your cervical screening by making an appointment today.