‘Don’t ignore your invitation for a smear test – it could save your life’.
That’s the message from GPs in Tower Hamlets 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 empowering women with 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 Tania Anastasiadis, a local GP and Clinical Lead for Cancer at NHS Tower Hamlets Clinical Commissioning Group (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.”
Mayor of Tower Hamlets John Biggs said: “The council strongly supports the cervical cancer screening campaign to raise awareness of how important early detection is.
“Taking a few minutes out of your day can save your life so we are urging women not to ignore the letter from their GP.”
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.
For more information, visit www.nhs.uk/cervicalscreening