Medical Negligence

Cervical Cancer Prevention Week 2021 Begins

Estimated read time: 3 mins

Carrie Tennick, January 18, 2021

Cervical Cancer Prevention Week has begun. It gives people the chance to raise awareness of the disease, which mainly affects women aged 30-45.

At a time when it has become challenging to access healthcare treatments, knowing the risk factors of developing this cancer can be one of the most important ways of preventing it.

According to the NHS: “There’s no single way to completely prevent cervical cancer, but there are things that can reduce your risk.”

Reducing cervical cancer risk

Reducing your risk of cervical cancer is not a guaranteed way of stopping it affecting you. But doing these things will give you the best chance of preventing it:

  • Avoid smoking

Smoking makes it much more difficult to get rid of an HPV infection, which can then develop into cervical cancer. As with many other types of cancer, this makes smoking a significant risk factor in the development of the disease.

  • Get vaccinated

The cervical cancer vaccine protects against four types of HPV – the virus that can lead to cervical cancer cells. It is available on the NHS to girls – and now boys – in Year 8. But if you missed having it, you can still receive it up to your 25th birthday.

  • Take up screening

The most important way to prevent cervical cancer from developing is to undergo regular screening. It identifies abnormal cell changes at an early stage. These cell changes can lead to cancer, making screening the best way of recognising a higher risk of developing the disease.

Covid-19 impact on screening

One of the biggest impacts the Covid-19 pandemic has had on the UK is on other NHS services. In order to protect people from the virus, cancer screenings across the country were delayed and suspended.

Some NHS providers have started offering cervical screening again. Get in touch with your GP practice or clinic to find out if they have. It will usually depend on where you live. As a screening is a medical appointment, you’re allowed to go to yours under the current government lockdown guidance.

There will undoubtedly be some differences in the way your screening procedure will be carried out as a result of the pandemic.

For example, you won’t be allowed anyone with you while having it done. You’ll also likely be asked to wait outside or to keep your mask on and sanitise your hands if inside. Your doctor or nurse may keep their mask on and may ask that you keep yours on throughout the appointment.

The pandemic may also affect how long you wait to receive your results. As with many other healthcare services, delays are possible – if not likely. The Eve Appeal recommends calling your GP to chase up if you haven’t received them after eight weeks.

Getting involved

Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, the UK’s leading cervical cancer charity, runs an annual appeal called #SmearForSmear. It encourages people to post photos of their smeared lipstick on social media to “grab attention”.

The charity also urges social media users to highlight the importance of screening and to help friends and family access their tests.

For those worried about attending cervical cancer screening at the moment on safety grounds, Jo’s Trust aims to reassure by pointing out that “you won’t be able to book a test until your GP practice has decided it is safe to do so, as they won’t want to put you, other patients or staff at risk”.

So if you’ve been invited to a screening or you’ve been able to make an appointment, it’s because your surgery has done all they can to make it as Covid-secure as possible.

At a time when so much is out of our control, knowing what we can do to protect our health can be a real comfort.

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