Cervical cancer is the most common form of cancer in women under 35, and around 3,200 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer in the UK each year. Cervical Screening Awareness Week is an annual event, set up by charity Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, which will run from June 15th to June 21st, 2020. The week is used to highlight the importance of regular cervical screening for women.
Regular cervical screening appointments can prevent 99.8% of cases of cervical cancer, but a lot of women are still reluctant to get tested, with a quarter of women in the UK not responding to their screening invitation.
Cervical screening guidance during COVID-19
Although the coronavirus pandemic has affected the cervical screening programme, with many cervical screening appointments being paused for the time being, it is important that those who are due for a cervical screening get one at the first opportunity. Although the cervical screening programme has not officially stopped in England, many appointments may be delayed if resources aren’t available. If you are due for an appointment, contact your GP surgery to find out if your appointment has been postponed, or to enquire about making an appointment at the soonest possible date.
What is a cervical screening and what does it test for?
Cervical screening, otherwise known as a ‘smear test’, is a free test available on the NHS through their cervical screening programme, which helps to prevent cervical cancer, rather than test for it. Cervical screenings check for a virus called high-risk human papillomavirus (HPV) and cervical cell changes.
The cervix is the lowest part of the womb and is at the top of the vagina. During the test, a nurse will take a sample of cells from the cervix using a small soft brush and sends them to a laboratory to be tested.
If the test for HPV comes back clear, you will need no further tests, but if the test comes back positive for HPV, you will then be checked for changes to any cells in your cervix. These cells can then be treated before they turn into cancer cells.
Who are cervical screening tests for?
Cervical screenings are given to all women in the UK between the age of 25 and 64. You will get an invite every 3 years to attend a cervical screening if you are aged between 25 and 49. After that, you will only receive an invite every 5 years until the age of 64.
Also, if you are over the age of 65 and have never had a cervical screening you can request one from your GP.
Where can I get a cervical screening?
You should be sent an invitation letter in the post when it is time for you to go for your cervical screening. Your letter should tell you where you can go for your cervical screening and how to book an appointment. Most cervical screening is done in your GP surgery, so you should be able to call your GP to book an appointment with them.
You should try to book your appointment as soon as you get your letter, but you don’t have to wait for a letter if you missed your last appointment. If you have not received a letter or lost it, you can call your GP surgery to arrange an appointment. If you aren’t registered with a GP, then you may be able to visit a walk-in centre or sexual health clinic which offers the service.
What are the benefits of having a cervical screening?
Having a cervical screening is important for many reasons, it is the best way to protect against cervical cancer, preventing 7 in 10 diagnoses. Some of the benefits include:
- Having a screening reassures you if your test comes back normal.
- Regular testing may help the prevention of cervical cancer by finding any changes in your cervical cells that could form into cancer if left untreated.
- Cervical screenings help to find cervical cancer early on before any symptoms show. This means you can get any care or treatment you need early, possibly before it spreads, making it is easier to treat.
You shouldn’t be embarrassed or scared
When it comes to cervical screenings, you shouldn’t be embarrassed. A recent study by Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust found that ‘1 in 4 women don’t attend their cervical screening, with the number increasing to 1 in 3 for those between the ages of 25 and 29’, and with nearly 900 people dying of cervical cancer each year, it is important to get checked. 99.7% of cervical cancers are caused by persistent high-risk HPV infections. The most effective method of preventing cervical cancer if through cervical screening, so going to your cervical screening can save your life.
What are the symptoms of cervical cancer?
Cervical cancer in the early stages may not cause any symptoms, or symptoms may not be obvious. This means you may not notice the symptoms until a later date when cancer may have progressed. Some of the most common symptoms of cervical cancer are:
- unusual vaginal bleeding
- pain, discomfort, or bleeding during or after sex
- changes to vaginal discharge
- unexplained pain in your lower back, abdomen or between your hip bones
You may also want to look out for any other subtle changes that keep persistently coming back like feeling profoundly tired, unintentional weight loss, and changes to your bowel or urinary habits. If you notice any of these symptoms, it is important to contact your GP as soon as possible.
Treatments for cervical cancer
If cervical cancer is diagnosed at an early stage, it’s usually possible to treat it using surgery to remove the cervix or some or all of the womb. Radiotherapy is also often used to treat early cervical cancer, and in some cases, it’s used alongside surgery or chemotherapy.
More advanced cases of cervical cancer are usually treated using a combination of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. If diagnosed early enough, cervical cancer is often curable.
Private cancer care for cervical cancer
Here at Clatterbridge Private Clinic, we provide expert cancer care, tailored to your specific needs, in a modern and calming environment. If you have received a diagnosis of cervical cancer, you can ask to be referred to Clatterbridge Private Clinic for treatment. We have a team of consultants who specialise in the treatment of cervical cancer and can provide patients with fast access to a range of innovative treatments, many of which are not available on the NHS.
Our private patient liaison team are always on hand to offer any help, support, or guidance, and work hard to make your experience as comfortable and easy as possible. To find out more about private cancer care for cervical cancer contact our friendly team on, 0151 668 0648 or firstname.lastname@example.org.