Everyone susceptible to cervical cancer should understand how to prevent it. Cervical screening saves 2,000 lives each year, read on to find out how to potentially save your own
The idea of taking a smear test is enough to make some ignore their yearly invitation and cause fear, anxiety and embarrassment. The invitation letter is commonly thrown in the recycling, lost amongst vouchers and PPI scam letters, pushed to the back of the mind without much discussion – ‘it probably won’t happen to me, what are the chances?’
9 people are diagnosed in the UK everyday with cervical cancer.
75% of cervical cancers can be prevented through these methods:
• Attending cervical screening when invited
• Knowing the symptoms of cervical cancer and seeking medical advice if experiencing any
• Taking up the HPV vaccination if aged 11-18
After you remove these negative associations, the cervical screening (smear test) remains an amazing medical innovation that can prevent cancer. If you would encourage your loved ones to go for a life-saving surgery, why not expend the same protective care on yourself before you even need it?
Students pictured below are creatively campaigning to raise awareness:
— Be Cancer Safe – North Derbyshire (@BeCancerSafe_ND) January 25, 2019
What really happens in the Smear Test?
• You can undress in a private space, then you are asked to lie down with your legs bent up, your ankles together and knees apart.
• Your lower half is covered by a paper sheet, reducing the potential embarrassment some may feel.
• The nurse will put a clean speculum into your vagina, which may be uncomfortable as a sensation but should not be painful.
• Once the speculum is inside your vagina, the nurse gently opens it so they can see your cervix.
• The nurse will then gently open the speculum to see your cervix. Hearing about this step may re-ignite anxieties, but this is a well-rehearsed and simple procedure.
• The nurse uses a brush to take a cell sample, again a new sensation but not a painful one.
• Your sample of cells is put into a small plastic container (vial) of liquid. The liquid preserves the cells.
• The cell sample is transferred to a medical fluid in a container and you are free to dress after removal of the speculum.
Recent scientific research by the University of Southern California suggests that cancer cells behave like we do: they have clocks which can be disrupted to decrease their destructive power. It is almost like how humans can be woken from sleep at the wrong time, disrupting their circadian rhythms and affecting their mental capacities.
Watch a message from the UK Government Department of Health and Social Care:
“The tragedy is far too many women diagnosed with cervical cancer could have prevented it if they had a screen.”
— Department of Health and Social Care (@DHSCgovuk) January 24, 2019
The NHS invites those over the age of 25 to attend a yearly examination. There are some calls for this age to be lowered, to widen the net of prevention as opposed to waiting for diagnosis at a higher age. The highest frequency of cervical cancer cases happen between the ages of 25-29, suggesting that the preventative test should be undertaken even sooner than 25 for more time to fight the cancerous cells.
Professor Sir Mike Richards is currently leading a major rethink of national cancer screening programmes after the announcement of the NHS Long Term Plan, with renewed zeal to improve care and save lives in the region of preventative methods. He said:
“There is no doubt that the screening programmes in England save thousands of lives every year, however, as part of implementing NHS’s Long Term plan, we want to make certain they are as effective as possible.”
Steve Powis, NHS England’s national medical director, said:
“Screening is a vital and effective tool in our fight against cancer. However, recent issues with breast and cervical cancer screening have shown that we need to look closely at these existing programmes.”