Cervical cancer is the most common form of cancer in women under 35 with two women in the UK per day dying from the disease. Regular cervical screening appointments can prevent up to 75% of instances of cervical cancer, saving 5000 lives per year. Despite this, many women are reluctant to have this test done with a quarter of women not responding to their screening invitation.
15th-21st June is Cervical Screening Awareness Week and as a team largely made up of women, we want to highlight the importance of attending your cervical screening and to share some of our very own (and very personal!) experiences.
Alix, 39, Country Manager: “I had my first cervical screening at 18 years old and all came back clear. On my repeat cervical screening at 21 years old it came back inconclusive and I had to go for an appointment at the hospital for a Colposcopy (a more detailed look at your cervix) and a biopsy. The biopsy came back as normal and all my screenings since have been clear. 5 minutes of discomfort or to some embarrassment is much better than the possible alternatives. Get yours booked today!”
Christie, 26, UK Marketing: “I went to my first cervical screening when I was 23. My mum works as a Lead Nurse in Bowel Cancer Screening, so she had stressed that my sisters and me didn’t need to wait for the letter to book a cervical screening but there I was, still avoiding it! Maybe it was because I was worried about the results combined with burying my head in the sand that made me put it off but eventually I did bite the bullet and booked my appointment. It’s a funny one to word but once I was ‘in position’ I couldn’t believe how quick it was as a matter of minutes later, I was walking out of the surgery thinking to myself I couldn’t believe I had put this off for so long. I was thankful to receive the all clear with a note to return in 3 years, which means I’ll be back in for my second smear test very soon.”
Marine, 28, Brand Marketing: I had regular smear tests in France (once a year) and shortly after I moved to the UK I had a cervical screening that revealed abnormal cells that happened to be pre-cancerous. I was therefore asked to go every 6 months for a check-up as opposed to once every 3 years. Every time I went it was unfortunately still there and they kept on telling me I was too young for laser treatment. I wanted to know a bit more about what was preventing me from this treatment so they informed me that laser treatment would affect my fertility and increase chances of early labour if ever I could get pregnant. So we waited… In 2015 I miraculously got through the ballot for the London Marathon and decided to start training really hard to be able to participate 5 months later (I had never ran before!) Turns out I completed the marathon and the next time I went for a smear test the cell was totally gone to the astonishment of the doctors. They asked if I did anything in particular and when I mentioned the Marathon they confirmed that may have helped my body getting rid of the cells by itself. I have been lucky in a sense but do feel that so much can happen in 2 / 3 years that I’m glad my case was really taken seriously. I went through the NHS and felt really reassured by the follow up even though it was a scary time. They did an amazing job.”
Eve, 25, PR & Marketing: “I received the letter in February of 2019, and as I had just moved to London, I’m ashamed to say I put off booking it for 11 months, due to laziness and maybe a bit of fear! I was a bit nervous, but I shouldn’t have had any concerns at all, as the whole process was over in 5 minutes. It didn’t hurt, and I’m thankful to say it came back clear. I wasn’t embarrassed either, it’s a bit strange whipping off your knickers but I always think how many vaginas the nurse/GP see on a daily basis! I would advise anyone who also is worried, to not put this off – the sooner you get it done the better.”
Clemmie, 28, Key Accounts: “Having lived in Scotland (where cervical screening started at age 20 until 2016) I have now had three tests. Each time a lovely nurse has talked me through the process, answering any questions or concerns to put me at ease, and then the procedure is over in a few minutes. All in all it probably takes less time than a GP appointment! If you’re very nervous before going to yours, I have found chatting openly with friends is a good way to dispel any worries and don’t forget to reward yourself afterwards with a piece of cake! “
Capucine, 48, Finance and Supply Chain: “I was very surprised when I moved to the UK to discover it wasn’t offered more often and most of all that it was “taboo” for most women. In France it’s considered a routine exam done every year by your gynaecologist. Access to specialists is easier in France but GP’s also offer it from a young age, when in your late teens, as it was a way to access birth control. It is so easy, quick and painless so it really is a shame that so many women are afraid, nervous or embarrassed to take this test. The nurses and doctors are well trained to make you feel comfortable and it’s over very quickly. The benefits are amazing as you can know if any cells are a bit abnormal so it can be either treated from an early stage or monitored closely. Cervical cancer is very hard to treat if not diagnosed at a very early stage so this important test really is a life saver!”
Cervical Screening Awareness Week (15th– 21st June) aims to encourage all women to have regular cervical screening as well as provide information and reassurance around any fears or embarrassment that women may have concerning taking the test. Please visit Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust for access to information, support and articles. Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust also helps to identify the changes made to smear tests amid Coronavirus.