Cervical Cancer Prevention Week

Cervical Cancer Prevention Week

This week marks Cervical Cancer Prevention Week. To highlight how women can reduce their risk of this cancer, Jo’s Trust has launched its #cheersforsmears campaign.

This year, it is especially important as the number of women attending screenings has dropped to its lowest level since records began in 1995.

This year marks 10 years since the sad passing of Jade Goody, who sadly succumbed to the disease at just 27 years of age. In the wake of her death, attendances for screening soared initially, particularly amongst the younger generation, but 10 years on, the ‘Jade Goody effect’ seems to have lost its impact.

Cervical cancer forms in the cells that line the cervix. Cervical cancer may not have symptoms in its early stages, but it can be prevented through regular cervical screening, by way of a simple smear test designed to detect any early changes to the cells of the cervix. These changes are fully treatable, but if undetected and untreated they can lead to cervical cancer in some women. Even if a woman does develop cervical cancer, survival and cure rates are high if the cancer is picked up early.

Around 3,200 women in the UK are diagnosed with the disease every year, and this number is set to rise by 40% in the next 20 years.

There are often no symptoms associated with abnormal cervical cells and not all women diagnosed with cervical cancer experience symptoms, but as the cancer develops it can cause further symptoms.

There are some recognised symptoms of cervical cancer:

  • Abnormal bleeding, during or after sexual intercourse, or between periods
  • Post menopausal bleeding, if you are not on hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or have stopped it for six weeks or more
  • Unusual vaginal discharge
  • Discomfort or pain during sexual intercourse
  • Lower back pain

If you have had any of these symptoms you should contact your GP as soon as possible.

The earlier that a diagnosis is made, the more positive the outcome is likely to be and therefore it is highly recommended that women always attend smear tests when invited.

Currently 1 in 3 women diagnosed with cervical cancer dies from the disease so it is important that an early diagnosis is made to enable treatment to commence.

Cervical cancer is one of the only cancers that can largely be prevented by early screening with regular screening avoiding 75% of cases occurring. It therefore seems baffling that 1 in 4 women skips her screening, with the proportion increasing to 1 in 3 among those aged 25 to 29 and even 1 in 2 in some more deprived regions of the UK.

A survey undertaken by Jo’s Trust gave the main reason for non-attendance as ‘embarrassment’ with ‘lack of convenient appointments’ also being given as an excuse. To tackle the stigma that a smear is embarrassing, and an unpleasant experience, various female celebrities have been using social media to promote attendance at screenings. TOWIE’s Danielle Armstrong lost her friend to a female cancer and has been using Instagram to reach out to her followers, as has Olivia Buckland from Love Island.

The ‘Our Girl’ actress Michelle Keegan last year documented her smear via a video diary to try and encourage women to attend their smear tests.

Wolferstans invites you to join Jo’s Trust and support #cheersforsmears to encourage attendance. Look out for our tweets as we will be supporting Jo’s Trust’s campaign.

Despite screening, cancers can be missed and any delays or failures on the part of medical professionals to diagnose cancer can result in the progression of the disease to a more advanced stage. The consequences of this progression can be devastating.

At Wolferstans we sadly have experience of cases where despite women having attended their regular checks, additional opportunities to diagnose them have been missed. There are other signs and symptoms that can indicate the presence of cervical cancer and would mandate an urgent referral to a Gynaecologist for further investigation.

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