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Cervical screening call-up for women in Berkshire West

Health chiefs across Berkshire West are spearheading a new campaign aimed at raising awareness of the risks of cervical cancer and highlighting the benefits of screening.

It’s part of a nationwide campaign encouraging all women to respond to their cervical screening invitation letters and reminding them that cervical screening can stop cancer before it starts.

Women who haven’t had reminder letter, but have missed previous invites, are also being urged to book an appointment at their GP practice.

Two women die every day from cervical cancer in England. And while it’s estimated that cervical screening saves around 5,000 lives each year, screening is at a 20-year low, with one in four women in the UK not attending their test

In a bid to increase uptake locally, a special ‘Smear Pop Up Clinic’ was held recently at the Boathouse GP Surgery, Pangbourne. Twenty five women were screened during the day and surveyed about what could be done to make screening easier for women. The majority said they thought Saturday clinics, and phone or text alerts (rather than letters) would improve uptake.

And specially trained Cancer Champions in South Reading hold regular community events to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of cancer and highlight the importance of screening tests. There are talks given to a wide range of groups including people from Polish, Pakistani, Nepalese and Zambian communities.

Cervical screening is offered to everyone with a cervix, which is most women and many trans people, between the ages of 25 and 64, every three or five years depending on their age.

The screening test lasts just a few minutes and regular screening can help stop cervical cancer before it starts by preventing potentially harmful cells from developing. Health chiefs have drawn up advice to help make the screening test more comfortable. This includes:

  • Talk to your nurse – they are trained and experienced in how to make your test comfortable.
  • Wear a loose skirt or dress, you may feel more covered during your appointment.
  • Take a friend or family member with you if it will help you feel more comfortable.

Dr Kajal Patel, Berkshire West CCG Cancer Lead, said: “This drop in the number of women going for screening is a worry. I fully understand there are reasons some women are reluctant to go for a test. It could be for cultural reasons or they are nervous about what happens or are worried in case the test shows up some abnormalities.

“I’m hoping this campaign will reassure women that the tests are very quick and easy, they’re carried out by very understanding and professional healthcare staff and they really can be a matter of life and death,” she added.

For more information, visit www.nhs.uk/conditions/cervical-screening

If you need medical help and are unsure what to do, call NHS 111 for help and advice. They are available 24 hours a day.