The life-saving test women are avoiding

Worrying stats in Cervical Cancer Prevention Week

Young women put off smear tests due embarrassment and concerns about being hurt, a survey from Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust suggests.

It found that of 915 women who had delayed a test or never gone for screening, 71% felt scared while 75% felt vulnerable. (81% said they felt embarrassed, while 67% said they would not feel in control. They found that those aged 25 to 35 are also put off by the idea of a stranger examining them.

Figures show that cervical screening rates among all ages are at their lowest for two decades. Almost one in three women aged 25 to 64 have not had a smear test within the timeframe the NHS recommends, which is every three years for women aged 25 to 49, and every five years for those aged 50 to 64.

It's Cervical Cancer Prevention Week, with the aim of raising awareness of how the disease can be prevented. Every year in the UK, around 3,000 women will be diagnosed with cervical cancer. Cervical cancer is the most common cancer in women aged 35 and under.

Cervical cancer is not thought to be hereditary. In 99.7% of cases, cervical cancers are caused by persistent infections with the virus high-risk human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is a very common virus transmitted through skin to skin contact in the genital area. Approximately 80% of sexually active adults will be infected with some type of HPV in their lives. However, for the majority of women this will not result in cervical cancer; while HPV infection is common, cervical cancer is rare.

What can I do to prevent cervical cancer?

  • Attend your cervical screening (smear test) when invited. It's a free health test that helps prevent cervical cancer. It checks for cell changes on your cervix caused by high-risk HPV and is not a test for cancer
  • Recognise the symptoms of cervical cancer and speak to your GP if you experience any. Symptoms may include (a) abnormal bleeding: during or after sexual intercourse, or between periods (b) post-menopausal bleeding: if you are not on hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or have stopped it for six weeks or more (c) unusual vaginal discharge (d) discomfort or pain during sexual intercourse (e) lower back pain
  • Get the HPV vaccination if aged 11-18. Most cervical cancers are cause by HPV. There are over 200 types, each with its own number. 13 types are linked to cancer (high-risk HPV). If high-risk HPV is passed on through skin-to-skin contact in the genital area (genital HPV), it can cause the cells of the cervix to change. These changes are called abnormalities, which may develop into cervical cancer if they are not found or treated. The HPV vaccine aims to stop you getting some types of HPV
  • Know where to find support and further information.

Don't let your fears stop you booking or attending your test. Contact your GP surgery today.

Find out more about the smear test

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