The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), with the support of NHS England and NHS Improvement, has launched a major new national campaign, to increase the number of those eligible attending their cervical screening in England. The new Help Us Help You – Cervical Screening Saves Livescampaign urges women and people with a cervix not to ignore their cervical screening invite, and if they missed their last one, to book an appointment with their GP practice now.
Latest figures at March 2021 show that nearly a third (30%) of eligible individuals – women and people with a cervix aged between 25 and 64 – were not screened.
As part of the campaign, a new survey of 3,000 women and people with a cervix commissioned by DHSC revealed that 17% of South Asian respondents who have been invited to screening have never attended. This is higher than the England average, where 7% have never attended. The survey also revealed a number of concerns around cervical screening. Across England, embarrassment was the most common reason for having never attended or missing an appointment (stated by 42% of respondents in England), followed by those who “kept putting it off” (34%) and “being worried it would be painful” (28%).
To tackle these barriers and drive take up, a new film has been released featuring Dr Henna Anwar discussing cervical screening with South Asian women and answering their questions. Dr Anwar also encourages those eligible to book their appointment when invited and contact their GP practice if they missed their last screening.
Dr Henna Anwar said: “Two women die every day from cervical cancer. This is particularly sad because cervical cancer is one of the most preventable cancers. Screening can help stop cancer before it starts and saves thousands of lives every year. Do not ignore your cervical screening invite, and if you missed your last one, you can still book an appointment with your GP practice now.”
Maria Caulfield, Minister for Patient Safety and Primary Care, said: “Around two women die every day from cervical cancer, but screening takes just a few minutes and can stop the disease before it starts. Through our new campaign we’re calling on all women and people with a cervix to get screened to help save hundreds of lives. Even if you’re feeling embarrassed or nervous, please don’t ignore your invitation.”
Jas Dosanjh, aged 48, believes we are fortunate to have the cervical screening programme. She said: “As soon as I get my letter, I immediately book my appointment with the nurse at my GP surgery. My last screening was fine but when I was younger, my screening results showed abnormal cells, so I had to be monitored every year for a number of years until the cells came back clear.”
Broadcaster, Nadia Ali has joined the campaign to help raise awareness of cervical screening and encourage uptake within the community. She said: “It’s so important for us as South Asian women to talk about cervical screening. We need to encourage our friends and family to attend their appointment when invited so more lives can be saved.”
Around 2,700 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer in England each year and 690 die from the disease– around two deaths a day. Previous estimates suggest screening prevents 70% of cervical cancer deaths, but 83% could be prevented if everyone attended regularly.
The campaign emphasises that screening, which only takes a few minutes, can help stop cervical cancer before it starts. Cervical screening checks for high-risk types of the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), which causes nearly all cervical cancers. This is the best way to find out who is at higher risk of developing the cervical cell changes that over time could potentially lead to cervical cancer. Any cervical cell changes can be treated, preventing cervical cancer. That is why attending screening appointments is so important.
Top tips for women attending cervical screenings:
- If you are feeling nervous or embarrassed, talk to your nurse or doctor during the test – they can put your mind at ease and answer all your questions
- If you feel uncomfortable about feeling exposed from the waist down, wear a skirt, dress, or long jumper which you can keep on during the test. Don’t worry if you forget – you’ll be provided with a disposable modesty sheet to cover yourself
- The tests are usually done by a female nurse but don’t be afraid to ask for a nurse or doctor of a particular gender when booking your appointment.
- If you find the screening painful you can ask for a different sized speculum or the nurse can advise you on different positions to make it more comfortable
- You can listen to music or a podcast or ask your nurse about breathing exercises – this may help you relax or distract you
- Don’t be afraid to talk about screening with your friends and family! Everyone’s had different experiences, and discussing it may help when you go for your next appointment
Call To Action
- Don’t ignore your cervical screening invite and if you missed your last screening book an appointment with your GP practice.
- Cervical screening only takes a few minutes – it’s a few minutes that could save your life!