Cancer patient and Chief Nurse back national cervical cancer campaign as survey reveals one in three women don’t get their smear test

A 34-year-old cervical cancer patient has joined the South East’s  chief nurse in backing a national campaign to encourage women to book their cervical screening (a smear test) as around one in three currently don’t take up the offer in the region.

Sian-Louise and NHS South East’s Regional Chief Nurse Acosia Nyanin, want more women to come forward for the screening, which is one of the best ways to protect yourself from cervical cancer.

A new survey has revealed embarrassment was the most common reason for women not booking a screening appointment (42%) in England, with almost two thirds in the South East (62%) stating that they were nervous when they did attend their appointment.

The UK NHS Cervical Screening Programme has made a significant impact on cervical cancer mortality since it was established in 1988, saving an estimated 5,000 lives a year. However, there are many patients who don’t attend their screening appointment when invited.

Cervical cancer is one of the most common cancers in women under 35, and 99.7% of cervical cancers are caused by human papillomavirus, or HPV. In recent years, cervical screening includes testing for HPV, which has meant that it is easier to identify who is at greater risk from cervical cancer at the earliest stage.

Cervical cancer may not cause any symptoms, or the symptoms may not be obvious. The most common symptoms of cervical cancer include vaginal bleeding that is unusual for you, including after the menopause, after sex, or between regular periods, changes to vaginal discharge, pain or discomfort during sex and unexplained pain in your lower back or between your hip bones (pelvis). If you are experiencing symptoms, then don’t wait for an invitation for cervical screening, please contact your GP.

Sian-Louise who had cervical cancer confirmed after a smear test said: “Please do respond when you’re invited for cervical screening. I promise you that a smear test is nothing to be scared of. I encourage anyone with a cervix to book their smear test as soon as it is due.

“From start to finish, the NHS has gone above and beyond expectations, especially in today’s climate. I cannot fault any of the staff and I cannot thank them all enough.”

NHS South East’s Chief Nurse Acosia Nyanin said “Cervical screening is one of the best ways to protect yourself from cancer but one in three women don’t attend. Cervical cancer often causes no symptoms during the early stages of the disease, which is why it’s especially important that people go for cervical screening when invited.”

If you’ve been invited previously for a smear test and didn’t attend, you can still get in touch with your doctor’s surgery to schedule an appointment.

As part of the campaign, a video from NHS South East Regional Chief Nurse Acosia Nyanin has been released to coincide with the national launch – click here.

Around 2,700 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer in England each year and approximately 690 women die from the disease – around two deaths every day.[1] Previous estimates suggest screening prevents 70% of cervical cancer deaths, but 83% of deaths could be prevented if everyone attended regularly.[2]

Dr Nikki Kanani, GP and Medical Director for Primary Care at NHS England, said: “There is no doubt about it – cervical screening saves lives. By screening for risk signs at an early stage, it means that any abnormal cells can be treated quickly before they potentially develop into cancer.

“We know that it can feel embarrassing or feel like something that you can easily put off, but accepting your invite and getting checked could save your life. And please do speak to your GP practice about any concerns you might have – we are here to help you.”

In England, NHS cervical screening is offered to women and people with a cervix between the ages of 24.5 and 49 every three years. For those between the ages of 50 and 64, screening is offered every five years.