‘Don’t ignore your invitation for a smear test – it could save your life’.
That’s the message from GPs in Barking and Dagenham, Havering and Redbridge as a new campaign is launched to encourage women in the borough to attend cervical screening.
Cervical cancer screening, also known as a smear test, is a free health test that checks for cell changes in a person’s cervix caused by high-risk human papillomavirus (HPV).
The Cervical Screening Saves Lives campaign is aimed at giving women the knowledge and tools to get screened. However, national screening rates for the disease are currently at a 20-year low, with one in four women in the UK not attending their test.
In light of this, the Public Health England campaign is encouraging all women to respond to their cervical screening invitation letters and, if they have missed previous opportunities to attend an appointment, to book a free test at their GP practice.
GPs say attending screening appointments can be crucial because early diagnosis and treatment of cancer greatly increases the chances of survival.
Dr Kanika Rai, cancer clinical lead for NHS Barking and Dagenham, Havering and Redbridge Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG) said:
“The screening test only lasts a few minutes but it’s not simply a test for cancer.
“In fact, attending regular screening can help stop cervical cancer before it starts by preventing potentially harmful cells from developing. It is ultimately a person’s own choice on whether to take a smear test but testing is estimated to save 5,000 lives a year”
Everyone aged 25 to 64 with a cervix, which is most women and many trans people, are invited to attend cervical screening every three or five years depending on their age.
You can make the test more comfortable by:
Talking to your nurse – they are trained and experienced in how to support you
Wearing a loose skirt or dress – this can help you feel more covered during your appointment
Taking friend or family member with you if it helps you feel more relaxed.
Cervical screening lasts about five minutes, and you only have to go once every three or five years depending on your age. It is five minutes that could save your life.