20 – 26 January 2013 is Cervical Cancer Prevention Week Print

Next week is Cervical Cancer Prevention week.

 

Awareness of cervical cancer has increased in recent years, partly because of the sad death of Jade Goody in 2009 at the age of 27.

 

Is awareness of the disease widespread enough though?  Over 20% of women in the UK still do not turn up for cervical cancer screening appointments.  According to figures released towards the end of last year the age group 25-29 are the worst offenders.  There is a slight reversal in this trend but nearly 1 in 3 women ignored their appointment for screening in 2011/12.  Recent research shows that a high number of women diagnosed with cervical cancer either delayed or ignored their screening invitation.

 

Cervical screening is estimated to save up to 5,000 lives each year.

 

Each year in the UK 3,300 new cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed and more than half of these are in women under the age of 50.  Although very rare in women under 25, it is the second most common cancer in women under 35.

 

The best way of reducing your risk of developing cervical cancer is being screened regularly.  In England women aged 25 to 49 are invited for screening every 3 years, and screening continues every 5 years for women aged 50 to 64. However it is important to understand that cervical screening is not a test for cervical cancer, rather for abnormal cells on the cervix which can lead to cervical cancer.  This means any potential problem can be picked up and addressed early.  Abnormal cells on the cervix don't usually have any symptoms, which is why it is so important to go for screenings regularly. If there are signs of abnormal cells, treating them is often simple and can prevent cancer developing.

 

Nearly all cervical cancers are caused by a common sexually transmitted infection called human papillomavirus (HPV) which most women have at some time but usually clears up on its own. If the infection doesn't clear up there is a risk of abnormal cells developing which could become cervical cancer over time.

 

To reduce your risk of developing cervical cancer:
Go for screening when invited
Have the HPV vaccine if you are offered it
If you smoke, try to stop

Use a condom to reduce your risk of HPV and other sexually transmitted infections.

 

Your local pharmacy can provide advice and products to help you give up smoking or reduce your risk or picking up any sexually transmitted diseases.  They are accessible, you do not need an appointment and the pharmacist offers free, friendly and confidential advice.