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‘It could be lifesaving’ – New cancer screening campaign urges women to get tested

PUBLISHED: 00:00 05 March 2019

The cervical cancer screening rate is at a 20-year low Picture: GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCKPHOTO

The cervical cancer screening rate is at a 20-year low Picture: GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCKPHOTO

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Health experts have launched a major campaign to combat cancer in the east of England – as cervical screening rates fall to a 20-year low.

The campaign, run by Public Health England (PHE), aims to save lives by boosting the number of smear tests booked by women across the region.

Running from March 5 until April 28, the ‘Cervical Screening Saves Lives’ campaign will feature advertising on TV, video, washroom posters, social media and other digital channels.

It seeks to encourage women to respond to their cervical screening invitation letter, and if they missed their last screening, to book an appointment at their GP practice.

According to PHE, around 242 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer in the east of England each year and around 70 women die from the disease. It is estimated that if everyone attended screening regularly, 83% of cervical cancer cases could be prevented.

Despite this, screening is at a 20-year low – with one in four eligible women in the UK missing their test.

The rate is even worse for the east of England, at 72.9% – below the national average of 80%.

Dr Shylaja Thomas, PHE’s consultant lead for screening and immunisation in the east of England, said: “Too many women put off having a cervical screening test, but [they] are enormously important to reduce the risk of developing cancer of the cervix.

“Pre-cancerous changes in cells can be picked up with a cervical smear test and can be treated to prevent them developing into cancer.

“The number of women having a cervical screening test is decreasing in the east of England and women who do not have regular screening are at an increased risk of developing cervical cancer.

“If cervical cancer develops, this can have devastating consequences. Most cases of cervical cancer can be prevented if caught early enough and the only easy way to know if you have pre-cancerous cells in your cervix is with a smear test.”

PHE research shows that once women have been screened, the vast majority feel positive about the experience, with eight in ten saying they are glad they went and they were put at ease by the nurse or doctor doing the test.

TV personality Dr Dawn Harper, who is supporting the campaign, added: “Cervical screening is one of the most important things women can do to protect themselves from the risk of cervical cancer. Screening can stop cancer before it starts and saves thousands of lives every year.

“Some women are nervous or embarrassed about the test and put off having it done. While it’s not the most enjoyable experience most women say it wasn’t as bad as expected and were glad they did it.

“The tests are usually done at your GP surgery by female nurses who are trained to make women feel more comfortable and talk them through the process. I cannot stress how important it is not to ignore your screening letter – it’s a five minute test that could be lifesaving.”

More information can be found on the NHS website.

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