Cervical cancer is the most common cancer in women aged 35 and under with around eight women in the United Kingdom diagnosed with the disease every day.
The aim of Cervical Cancer Prevention Week is to highlight the importance of cervical screening, commonly known as a smear test and how attending a screening invitation can help to prevent cervical cancer. It is also an ideal time to help raise awareness of the disease.
Cervical cancer develops in a woman’s cervix and is caused by a persistent infection with a virus called human papillomavirus (HPV) which leads to cervical cells being damaged.
When reality TV star, Jade Goody died of cervical cancer at aged 27, this led to an increase in the number of women having screenings. But this surge has now dropped, with recent figures showing that one in four women still do not attend their appointments.
Mr Raj Saha, consultant gynaecologist and lead for cancer services at Heart of England NHS Foundation, explains: “If you have received an invitation to go for your routine cervical smear then please do not ignore the letter. The test should take no more than 15 minutes and could save your life.
“Cervical screening, available to all women aged between 25 and 64, is one way of preventing cervical cancer as it detects any abnormalities on the cervix which if left untreated could lead to cancer. Cervical screening is a simple and painless procedure and with early detection and treatment it is estimated to prevent up to 75 per cent of cervical cancers.
“We urge women to book an appointment with their GP as soon as they receive their reminder or to contact their GP if they think their screening is due. If you are over 25 and you haven’t received a letter inviting you for a test, contact your local GP surgery who can make the necessary arrangements.”
Even though screening is effective, you should see your GP if you notice any unusual symptoms. For example, if you bleed after sex or between periods. Symptoms of cervical cancer are not always obvious at first and there are sometimes no symptoms with early stage cervical cancer. There are however recognised symptoms associated with cervical cancer as highlighted below:
- Discomfort or pain during sex;
- Lower back pain;
- Leg swelling;
- Bone pain.
For more information on cervical cancer, visit www.jostrust.org.uk. You can also join in the conversation on Twitter by following @JoTrust and using the hashtag #SmearForSmear to get more people talking about the importance of attending smear tests.
Cervical Cancer Prevention Week takes place between 24-30 January 2016.