aim of Cer­vi­cal Screen­ing Aware­ness Week

The Peterborough Evening Telegraph - - Your -

up screen­ing af­ter ab­nor­mal re­sults from a smear test were once again found.

While her un­timely death last year was tragic, it led to a 12per cent rise in the num­ber of women hav­ing smear tests – from 3.2 mil­lion to 3.6 mil­lion.

Em­me­line said: “I sup­pose some women, par­tic­u­larly the younger ones, might think they don’t need to go for a smear be­cause they’re all right and it’s eas­ier not to go.

“But with­out be­ing a doom­mon­ger, there could be some­thing wrong and, if they don’t go for screen­ing, they won’t know un­til it’s too late.”

Around 300,000 UK women have ab­nor­mal smears ev­ery year and they will usu­ally be re­called for a col­poscopy, where a doc­tor uses a col­po­scope to mag­nify the cervix to see if fur­ther treat­ment is needed.

The col­poscopy takes just 10 to 15 min­utes and is usu­ally per­formed on an out-pa­tient ba­sis, with­out a stay in hos­pi­tal.

Depend­ing on the sever­ity of the ab­nor­mal­ity, no treat­ment may be re­quired as the body’s im­mune sys­tem will some­times deal with the ab­nor­mal cells it­self. Al­ter­na­tively, the cells may be treated there and then, or a biopsy may be taken to as­cer­tain whether the cells are can­cer­ous, in which case, surgery may be the next step.

Treat­ment af­ter ab­nor­mal cells are de­tected is very suc­cess­ful, with more than 90 per cent of pa­tients re­turn­ing nor­mal smear re­sults.

Nearly all cases of cer­vi­cal can­cer are caused by the hu­man pa­pil­loma virus (HPV), which is trans­mit­ted through sex­ual con­tact.

Al­though there is no treat­ment for the virus, 12 to 13-year-old girls are now be­ing vac­ci­nated against the two most com­mon high risk HPV types.

Em­me­line’s doc­tor, gy­nae­co­log­i­cal on­col­o­gist Robin Craw­ford, of Ad­den­brooke’s Hos­pi­tal, Cam­bridge, said symp­toms that in­di­cate there may be a prob­lem with the cervix can range from bleed­ing be­tween pe­ri­ods or af­ter sex, to post-menopausal bleed­ing.

Such symp­toms can also in­di­cate other con­di­tions, so he says it is im­por­tant for women to get checked out.

He said: “There may be no prob­lem and the ab­nor­mal­ity is de­tected by screen­ing, hence the im­por­tance of keep­ing up to date with smears.

“Em­me­line had her can­cer de­tected be­fore she had any symp­toms and is able to con­sider a fur­ther preg­nancy. You could call this a tri­umph for the screen­ing pro­gramme.”

In Eng­land, the cer­vi­cal screen­ing pro­gramme starts at the age of 25, with three-yearly smears un­til the age of 49, when the fre­quency is changed to fiveyearly. In Scot­land and Wales the screen­ing pro­gramme starts at the age of 20.

Dr Craw­ford says the 20 per cent of women who do not go for screen­ing may sim­ply be fright­ened of what the test could find, or even fear that they be­ing judged if the smear is ab­nor­mal. He said: “Some women just find it un­com­fort­able or have had a bad ex­pe­ri­ence when they’ve had a smear be­fore. In some cases, it’s a mat­ter of pri­or­i­ties and time - the smear is the least of their wor­ries com­pared with work and chil­dren.”

Robert Mu­sic, di­rec­tor of Jo’s Cer­vi­cal Can­cer Trust, says that – de­spite reg­u­lar cer­vi­cal screen­ing cut­ting cer­vi­cal can­cer by 44 per cent since 1975 – there are still wor­ries about the num­ber of women who miss their tests.

Around one in three of those aged un­der 35 miss their screen­ing ap­point­ment.

Mr Mu­sic stresses that while 400,000 more women had smear tests af­ter Jade Goody’s death, fig­ures re­leased later this year are likely to con­firm that the ef­fect has di­min­ished. He added: “From speak­ing to peo­ple in­volved with screen­ing, the num­bers are go­ing down al­ready and are po­ten­tially close to pre-Jade lev­els.

“Cer­vi­cal can­cer is largely pre­ventable and it’s just try­ing to get that mes­sage across so that women will be pro-ac­tive in tak­ing steps to re­duce their risk.”

He ex­plained that part of the up­take prob­lem stems from the fact that there is a lack of un­der­stand­ing about what screen­ing is for, with some women think­ing it’s a test for can­cer. It’s about pre­vent­ing can­cer and that’s a key mes­sage to get out there.

“We’re talk­ing about a few min­utes for a test that could po­ten­tially save your life.”

For more in­for­ma­tion, visit www.jostrust.org.uk.

SUC­CESS: Em­me­line Collin, whose can­cer was suc­cess­fully treated thanks to early cer­vi­cal screen­ing, with her daugh­ter Lucy (4).

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