Cervical Cancer Prevention Week - 20th - 26th January
This year, Cervical Cancer Prevention Week will run from 20th – 26th January 2020 and patients and staff across the Northern Care Alliance are being reminded about the importance of women having regular cervical smear tests.
This important awareness week aims to inform people about cervical cancer, its signs and symptoms and highlights how important it is to attend your cervical smear, to help reduce the risk of developing cervical cancer. The campaign also encourages people to share the information that is available locally and via cancer charities, with their family and friends and therefore spread the word as widely as possible.
Julie Dale, Macmillan Gynaecology Clinical Nurse Specialist tells us more about cervical cancer, the symptoms to look out for and why it’s so important to have regular smear tests:
What is cervical cancer?
Cervical cancer is cancer of the cervix (also known as the neck of the womb) which connects a woman's womb and her vagina. It can affect women of all ages but affects women primarily 30 - 45 years of age. It is very rare in women under 25 years of age. In the UK, we have a very successful cervical screening programme which is estimated to save over 4,000 lives each year.
Human Papillomavirus (HPV) and the link to cervical cancer
Nearly all squamous cervical cancers are caused by a common sexually transmitted infection called human papillomavirus (HPV). This is why the UK government is vaccinating girls at an early age before they are potentially exposed to the HPV virus (i.e. before they experience sexual activity).
Sex is a normal, healthy activity, and the wearing of condoms is advised to protect both partners from unwanted pregnancies and reduce exposure to HPV, as well as other transmissible conditions. Most women will contract HPV at some stage during their life but this usually clears up on its own without the need for any treatment.
HPV is a group of viruses, of which there are more than 100 different types. It is spread during sexual intercourse and other types of sexual activity (such as skin-to-skin contact of the genital areas). If the body is unable to clear the virus, there is a risk of abnormal cells developing which could become cancerous over time. The smear test is designed to pick up changes at this stage.
Symptoms of Cervical Cancer
The symptoms of cervical cancer include:
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding, such as during or after sex, or in between periods or post-menopausal bleeding.
- Changes in menstrual cycles
- Pain in your lower back or pelvis
- Pain and discomfort during sex
- Difficulty passing urine
- Offensive vaginal discharge
Please remember that many of the symptoms described above can have a wide range of causes and may not be a sign of anything serious. If you are concerned about any of the symptoms, you should contact your GP and ask to be examined, rather than rely on a smear test; these are designed to detect pre-cancerous changes.
Cervical Screening Tests
All women aged 25 to 49 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are offered a cervical screening test every 3 years, whilst those aged 50 to 64 are offered screening every 5 years.
Please also remember that the nurses and doctors who are carrying out these tests don’t mind if you are wearing odd socks, your pedicure needs to be redone or you have missed a waxing date! We want to help and support you through the process and remember, if it is a female nurse or doctor, it is highly likely that she will also be or have been part of the cervical screening programme and understand your concerns.
Cervical Cancer Prevention Week at The Royal Oldham Hospital
From Tuesday to Thursday (21st-23rd January 2020) there will be a display stand near the clock just off the main entrance at The Royal Oldham Hospital. There are information leaflets and cards available for people to take away.
Cancer Pathway Navigators Available to Answer Questions – Thursday, 1pm – 3pm
On Thursday between 1-3pm the Gynae Cancer Pathway Navigators will be there to help answer any queries that people might have.
The CNS team will also support staff and answer any queries that they might have via our office number 0161 778 5670. People can leave a message and we will respond as quickly as possible, although it may not be the same day.