Call us crazy, but you may agree that having a friendly stranger slap on a pair of latex-free gloves, whip out a speculum and ask you to lay back legs akimbo while they swab your cervix isn’t the most glamorous invite you’ll ever receive.
The letter through the door reminding you that your cervical screening is due inevitably won’t be the 25th birthday present you were hoping for. But taking up the offer to have the health of your cervix checked out is one of the best things you can do. Plus, it will give you peace of mind.
Cervical screenings last for literally five minutes. It’s no longer than the average time it takes to make a brew, take a quick shower or microwave a meal (yes, it can feel like a lifetime if you’re hangry, but you get my point).
The thing is, you only have to go once every three or five years depending on your age. No matter how busy you think you are, find five tiny minutes to spare – it could save your life!
Sadly, two women die every day from cervical cancer in England. Cervical screening can identify potentially harmful cells and prevent them from developing, stopping cancer before it starts. No brainer, right?
Well, national statistics show screening is at a 20-year low with one in four eligible women in the UK not attending their test. In Dorset, only 73% of women in the 25 to 49 age group have had adequate cervical screening checks in the last three or so years.
The NHS target is for 80% of women aged 25 to 49 to be tested every three years and the same proportion aged 50 to 64 to be screened every five years. Areas with a high uptake of the cervical screening test have much lower incidences of advanced cervical cancer.
But we get it, life happens and things fall off the to-do list. If you missed your last cervical screening or can’t remember if you are due, get in touch with your GP practice and they’ll let you know if you need to book an appointment.
“But I had the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccination. I’m sorted, right?”
There appears to be some fake news floating around out there, so let us help you out. While the HPV vaccination has already reduced the prevalence of HPV 16 and 18 – the two most common cancer-causing types – the risk isn’t completely eliminated and screening is still an important part of preventing cancer.
Whatever you do, don’t ignore your screening invite. The test is performed by experienced nurses who are trained to make you feel as comfortable as possible. They can answer any questions or concerns you may have and will do their best to put you at ease.
For more information on what cervical screening involves, visit www.nhs.uk/cervicalscreening.