This Cervical Screening Awareness Week (15–21 June 2020), people in Lancashire and South Cumbria are urged to book their cervical screening appointments.
At the height of the coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown, many services took the decision to reschedule cervical screening (or smear test) appointments to respond to the pandemic and protect patients from the virus.
Cervical screening is now resuming, with health leaders across Lancashire and South Cumbria encouraging women and people with a cervix to attend screening if they receive an appointment invitation.
Cervical screening is a free health test that helps prevent cervical cancer. It checks for a virus called human papillomavirus (HPV) and, if you have HPV, cervical cell changes (abnormal cells).
Women and people with a cervix aged 25 to 49 are screened every three years, and those aged 50 to 64 every five years. People aged over 65 are only screened if one of their last three tests was abnormal.
If you are due for cervical screening, you will receive an invitation to book an appointment. If your appointment was cancelled during the lockdown, your GP practice will be in touch with you soon to reschedule or you could contact your GP practice to make an appointment.
Tricia Spedding, Deputy Head of Public Health for NHS England / Improvement North West, said:
“Cervical screening is not a test for cancer, it’s a test to help prevent cancer. It’s one of the best ways to protect yourself from cervical cancer, but around 30% of people do not make an appointment when they are offered one.
“You can request a female nurse or doctor. It may be a little uncomfortable but only takes a few minutes and could save your life.
“Anyone with concerns or questions should contact their GP practice.”
Dianne Draper, Screening and Immunisation Lead for NHS England / Improvement North West, said:
“GP practices and other screening providers have put increased infection control measures in place to ensure screening appointments continue. This includes the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) for the safety of patients and staff.
“If you are self-isolating, you should not book an appointment until you have finished isolating. If you have concerns or are shielding, please contact your GP practice to discuss your situation. The NHS is here for you.”
Dr Neil Smith, Primary Care Director and Cancer Research UK GP for Lancashire and South Cumbria Cancer Alliance, said:
“Having cervical screening is one of the most important things you can do to protect yourself from the risk of cervical cancer. Cervical screening saves lives by finding early abnormalities that can be treated even before cancer begins.
“Cervical cancer is rare, but it is important not to ignore possible symptoms such as bleeding between periods, after sex and after menopause, changes to vaginal discharge, pain during or after sex, and unexplained lower back or pelvic pain.
“If you have any of these symptoms, contact your GP. They can assess you over the phone or by video call, and then they will decide if they need to see you at a face-to-face appointment for a further examination. Don’t risk your long-term health by delaying getting the help you need.”
Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust is the UK’s leading cervical cancer charity, providing information and support to anyone affected and campaigning for excellence in cervical cancer treatment, care and prevention. Its national Helpline is free, confidential and on 0808 802 8000.
As screening services are returning to normal, the charity has a new webpage with frequently asked questions (FAQs) to address common questions to reassure women that while visiting the GP might look a bit different, the cervical screening itself remains the same.
More information about cervical screening and cervical cancer:
- NHS information about cervical screening
- Jo’s Trust information about cervical screening
- Cancer Research UK information about cancer symptoms
- NHS information about cancer signs and symptoms
- Lancashire and South Cumbria’s Let’s Talk Cancer campaign
- The Eve Appeal information about Cervical Screening Awareness Week 2020