Cervical Cancer Prevention Week is here once again in an effort to get as many women as possible to reduce their risk and have a cervical screening (or ‘smear test’).

Why are cervical screenings so important?

Cervical cancer can be prevented. These test check for any changes to the cells in the cervix, which could indicate the development of cancer. According to Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, 75% of cervical cancers can be prevented by a smear test, and yet 1 in 4 women do not attend this potentially life-saving test.

What does a cervical screening involve?

A cervical screening can be carried out at your local GP with a trained healthcare professional. They will make all attempts to ensure that you are comfortable. You will need to undress from the waist down and sit or lay with legs apart.

A speculum will be inserted into the vagina to gently hold it open, so the healthcare professional can see the cervix. They will insert a small brush to take a sample of the cells in the cervix and this will then go off for testing.

Overall, it will only take a few minutes and there might be a little discomfort. You should receive your test results within 14 days.

If your results indicate that you require a GP referral, those with private medical insurance can be rest assured that they will be seen quickly by a specialist. Sometimes the waiting period can be worse than the diagnosis.

Who needs to be tested?

Once a woman turns 25 she is invited to her local GP to have her first cervical screening. This will then need to be repeated every 3 years, until the age of 49. From the age of 49 to 64, she will be invited every 5 years to be screened.

Cervical cancer is the most common cancer in women under 35, but it is rare in those under 25. This is why the screenings begin at 25 and why it is so important to regularly attend. Girls and young women are instead offered a vaccine to protect themselves from human papilloma virus (HPV) which is the most common cause of cervical cancer.

It is important that we ensure that every woman knows how they can reduce their risk of cervical cancer. Cervical cancer can be prevented and here are the steps you can take to reduce your risk:

  • Attending your cervical screening when invited by your GP
  • Be able to recognise the symptoms of cervical cancer
  • Seek medical advice if experiencing any of these symptoms
  • If aged 11-18, get the HPV vaccination
  • Talking to friends and family to share your knowledge
  • Knowing where to find support and further information

How can an employer help?

There are lots of ways you can get involved including:

  • Hold an awareness day in your office, business, university, or practice.
  • Share our infographic on social media.
  • Send out this blog post and other resources via email to members of your company.
  • Host a fundraising event such as a bake sale or get all the staff to dress up in pink!
  • Get your workplace to sign up to campaigns such as Time to Test, which raises awareness of cervical cancer in the workplace and ensures female employees can have the time to attend a cervical screening if they are unable to get an appointment outside of working hours.
  • If you provide Private Medical Insurance for your staff, check to see if your provider offers a 24-hour helpline. Should your employees feel worried about a health issue that is affecting them or a family member, someone in the helpline team can hear their problems and offer advice about any medical treatment they may need.
  • If you don’t already, providing private medical insurance to your employees is another way to help them with their healthcare. It eliminates lengthy waiting periods which enables your employees to be seen promptly, be treated quickly and return to full health as soon as possible.