GPs in Barking and Dagenham, Havering and Redbridge are encouraging people to book their free cervical screening appointment – with a message that catching cancer early could save your life.
The call comes at the start of this year’s Cervical Screening Awareness Week (10-16 June), which highlights the importance of attending screenings, also known as smear tests.
Although cervical cancer is rare – largely due to early treatment and prevention – it is estimated that screening saves up to 5,000 lives a year in England. The test checks the health of your cervix and detects abnormal cell changes that could cause cancer if left untreated, but one in four people still don’t attend their appointment when they should.
Early diagnosis is a vital aspect of ensuring the highest possible survival rates, and that means encouraging more people to book their appointment.
Everyone with a cervix – meaning most women and many trans people – between the ages of 25 and 64 are invited to book a free five-minute appointment at their local GP practice. This should happen every three to five years (depending on the person’s age).
Around one in 20 people will have an abnormal result afterwards, which means it’s vital for everyone to ensure they are up to date with their screenings.
Screening may be uncomfortable but should not be painful. However, there are several things you can do to make the experience easier, including:
- Talking through the procedure with your nurse
- Bringing along a friend or family member
- Wearing a loose-fitting skirt or dress so you feel more covered for your appointment.
Dr Kanika Rai, cancer clinical lead for NHS Barking and Dagenham, Havering and Redbridge Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG), said:
“We’re making great strides on early diagnosis and prevention of cervical cancer, but in order to get to where we should be we need to ensure that everyone eligible attends their screening appointment when they receive their invitation.
“It is vital that everyone involved knows how important screening is, and when and where should go to get checked. Attending regular screenings can help stop cervical cancer before it starts by preventing potentially harmful cells from developing.”
Cervical Screening Awareness Week is organised by Jo’s Trust, a charity dedicated to helping those affected by cervical cancer and their loved ones. It is encouraging everyone eligible to respond to their invitation letters, and to book a free test at their local GP practice.