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Cervical screening can stop cancer before it starts

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It is estimated that cervical screening saves around 5,000 lives each year1 but cervical screening is at a 20-year low2, with one in four women in the UK not attending their test3.

Here in Southampton 67% of those eligible for cervical screening attended, with women aged 25-49 the least likely to attend4.

Dr Sarah Young, local GP and Clinical Lead for cancer at NHS Southampton City CCG said: “Two women die every day from cervical cancer in England5. Regular screenings can help reduce that number, which is why it’s so important you attend your screening when invited.

We’re supporting the ‘Cervical Screening Saves Lives’ campaign which has launched to highlight the benefits of screening and remind women that cervical screening can stop cancer before it starts.”

Cervical screening is not a test for cancer but catching any changes early can reduce your risk of developing cervical cancer.

If you are a woman, or someone with a cervix, you will be invited for cervical screening at regular intervals:

  • If you’re aged 25-49, you’ll be invited every 3 years
  • If you’re aged 50-64, you’ll be invited every 5 years

Dr Sarah Young added: “Your screening will only take a minute or two and the whole appointment usually takes around ten minutes. Your nurse is there to answer any questions or concerns you may have before your appointment, so please talk to them if you’re feeling nervous.

There are also lots of things you can do to put yourself at ease during your screening:

  • If you’d like, you can take a trusted friend or family member with you
  • Wear a long, loose dress or skirt. It may make you feel more covered during your screening
  • Take long, deep breaths to help you relax
  • Listen to a podcast or some music during your screening to put you at ease
  • Speculums come in a range of different sizes. It is a rounded cylinder which is gently opened so nurses can see your cervix. You may want to discuss the size of the speculum with the nurse before you have the test.

If you’re due to have a cervical screening, you’ll receive a letter in the post. If you missed your previous screening, you can still contact your GP practice to book an appointment.

So don’t put it off, contact your GP practice today or for more information visit www.nhs.uk/cervicalscreening.”


1 NHS cervical screening leaflet. Available from: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/710741/Cervical_screening_helping_you_decide.pdf  
2 PHE to launch national cervical screening campaign in March 2019. Available from: https://phescreening.blog.gov.uk/2018/11/30/phe-to-launch-national-cervical-screening-campaign-in-march-2019/

3 NHS News https://www.nhs.uk/news/cancer/one-three-women-dont-attend-cervical-screening-because-embarrassment

4 In Southampton, only 64.5% of women aged 25-49, had their smear test in the past 3.5years compared to 73.4% of women aged 50 - 64 in the past 5.5 years (data taken at 2016-17). This meant the total number of eligible women in Southampton who were screened was just 66.8% (Source: PHOF report, Open Exeter system, NHS Digital).

5 Data obtained from NCRAS, PHE. On average 2577 women were diagnosed with cervical cancer (ICD-10 C53) each year from 2014 – 2016 and 689 women died from the disease.