15 Jun 2021

To mark Cervical Screening Awareness Week, the NHS and Public Health in St Helens are reminding patients of the importance of booking an appointment for a cervical screen when invited - GP practices continue to offer these appointments adn have done throughout the pandemic.

Women who are registered with a GP and are aged 25-49 years of age are invited for a cervical screen every three years, with women aged between 50-64 years of age invited every five years.

Cervical screening uptake on a whole in England is at a 20-year low, with uptake being particularly low in younger women (aged 25-29) and older women (aged 60-64). Data also shows that one in four women do not take up their screening invitation at all. 

Cervical cancer affects around 3,000 women in the UK every year, making it the most common form of cancer for women under the age of 35. According to Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, 75 per cent of these cases can be prevented through testing.

Screening is the best way to test for human papillomavirus (HPV). If the test comes back positive for HPV, the sample will then be tested for abnormal cells. If left untreated, abnormal cells can develop into cervical cancer.

Debbie Larty, Practice Nurse at Rainbow Medical Centre in Thatto Heath, said: “A cervical screen (or smear test) takes just a few minutes and most come back as normal with a view to repeating in three to five years.

Myself and other practice nurses who carry out the check make sure it’s as quick and painless as possible and we are there to put you at ease, explains what’s happening and answer any questions you may have about the test and possible results.  Cervical screening saves lives so please don’t ignore your screening invitation or let worries about it put you off.”

Ruth DuPlessis, Director of Public Health for St Helens Borough Council, added: “Although we have a better uptake than the Merseyside and England average, there are still a large number of women in St Helens who don’t attend for their cervical screening test.

"We know that many women feel uncomfortable about the test, but being screened regularly means any problems can be found early and, if necessary, treated to stop cancer developing

“I would encourage all women who are eligible to take up their cervical screening test invitation and for those who have missed it, to contact their GP to arrange an appointment.  Booking an appointment could literally be a life safer.”

Cervical cancer is often symptomless. However the most common symptoms are:
- Abnormal bleeding during or after sexual intercourse or between periods
- Post menopausal bleeding
- Unusual and/or unpleasant vaginal discharge
- Discomfort or pain during sex
- Lower back pain.

Across the UK, cervical screening is moving to testing for HPV first which is estimated will prevent almost 500 diagnoses of cervical cancer every year. 

4 out of 5 people will get at least one type of HPV at some point in their lives. While 90% of HPV infections clear naturally within two years, cervical screening can find a high risk HPV virus and changes early before it develops into cancer.

For further information please speak to your GP or practice nurse or visit the Jo’s Trust website https://www.jostrust.org.uk/

You can also visit www.cancercaremap.org