Regular Checks Urged in Cervical Cancer Prevention Week

This week is Cervical Cancer Prevention Week (20 to 26 January 2020) and as part of the week Central Bedfordshire Council and Bedfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (BCCG) are encouraging all eligible people to have a cervical screening (smear test).

Cllr Tracey Stock, Executive Member for Health, Wellbeing and Communities, said: “Cervical screening is one of the best ways to protect yourself from cervical cancer.  Cervical cancer is largely preventable due to early detection through a simple smear test and the HPV vaccine we now offer young people.

“Unfortunately, those attending their cervical screening has dropped significantly over the last 20 years. It’s important you don’t miss appointments as they need to be done every three to five years depending on your age to ensure any abnormal cells are detected early before cancer can develop.”

Across the UK, cervical screening is changing to test for high-risk HPV first. HPV is a common virus that eight in 10 people will get. It usually goes away without causing any problems but sometimes causes cells to change which, if not treated, could develop into cervical cancer.

  • A smear test saves around 5,000 lives each year in the UK
  • A smear test can identify if the high-risk HPV virus is present and any cell changes early before cancer develops.
  • 75% of cervical cancers can be prevented by cervical screening.

Almost all cervical cancers are linked to high-risk HPV.  By knowing who has high-risk HPV, the virus can be monitored, and any cell changes can be identified early, before they potentially develop into cervical cancer. National data suggests that women aged 25-34, women from ethnic minorities, lesbian and bisexual women and trans people are less likely to attend for screening when invited.

Muriel Scott, Director of Public Health, highlighted that: “In Central Bedfordshire the most recent data shows cervical screening uptake is 74% among women aged 25-49 years and 77% among women aged 50-64 years. These rates are below the national target of 80%, meaning we are missing opportunities to catch cancer before it starts.”

Cervical screening is a free health test available on the NHS and those who receive a letter inviting them for a screening test should contact their GP to make an appointment or if they’ve missed previous invitations.

During the cervical screening a nurse takes a sample of cells from the cervix using a small, soft brush.  This can be uncomfortable but is quick and usually not painful. To find out more about a screening test and what it involves visit Jo’s Trust.

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