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Thames Valley residents urged not to ignore cervical screening invites

NHS Thames Valley Cancer Alliance is trying to encourage attendance as part of Cervical Cancer Prevention Week

‘Don’t ignore your invite!’ is the plea from the NHS Thames Valley Cancer Alliance (TVCA) to women during Cervical Cancer Prevention Week (23 to 29 January 2023).

Two women die every day from cervical cancer in England. Yet it is one of the most preventable cancers, and cervical screening can help stop it before it starts.

The campaign encourages those people who receive an invite for cervical screening, to book an appointment at their GP practice, especially if they missed their last ‘smear test’.

Currently 1 person in 3 ignores their cervical screening appointment.  This leads to 1 in 142 people being diagnosed with cervical cancer in their lifetime.

All women and people with a cervix aged 25-64 are eligible for screening. Those registered as female with their GP practice are invited for routine screening every three years if they are aged 25-49, and every five years if they are aged 50-64. People registered as male need to request an appointment from their GP or a local sexual health clinic.

For most, cervical screening tests are not painful. But if you are worried that you may find the test uncomfortable, remember you are in control and can ask to stop at any time.

“Cervical screening prevents deaths from cervical cancer and saves thousands of lives each year,” says Dr Shelley Hayles, a GP in Oxfordshire and the TVCA Clinical Lead for Cancer Faster Diagnosis.

She continues: “Cervical screening lasts just a few minutes, just once every three or five years depending on your age. It's a few minutes that could save your life.”

Screening helps prevent cervical cancer by checking for the high-risk HPV virus which causes nearly all cervical cancers. This is the best way to find out who is at higher risk of developing the cell changes that, over time, could potentially lead to cervical cancer. 

“Any cervical cell changes can be treated, preventing cervical cancer,” says Dr Hayles. “But even if you’ve had the HPV vaccination, for your protection, you should still have your regular cervical screening, when you get your invite.”

Don’t be alarmed if you have HPV as it does not mean you have cervical cancer - it’s a common virus that most people will get at some point in their lives and can be easily treated.

For more information, visit www.nhs.uk/cervicalscreening.

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