Every day in the UK, eight women are diagnosed with cervical cancer and three will lose their lives to the disease. It’s hard to fathom that cervical cancer still claims the lives of around 1000 women in the UK every single year, but research has shown that one in five women don’t attend their screening appointments when invited. It’s an illness that is largely preventable thanks to cervical screening and the HPV vaccination programme, but the uptake of smear tests is now decreasing year on year as we become complacent and ‘too busy’ to attend appointments. Although smear tests aren’t enjoyable, they’re so quick and painless that we should all be making the time to get tested and look after our health. However, it seems that we all make excuses to delay our appointments – from not having the time, blaming work commitments, not being able to get a convenient appointment or simply prioritising everything else over a smear. Today marks the start of Cervical Cancer Prevention Week, an initiative from Jo’s Trust to help raise awareness of the importance of smear tests and the symptoms associated with cervical cancer, and it’s something I’m wholeheartedly supporting.
I know from personal experience how booking a check-up can become an inconvenience and something that slips
to the bottom of your priority list, especially because doctors appointments often require time off work. However, early detection and education is key in increasing survival rates; Cervical Cancer Prevention Week provides us with an opportunity to open up the discussion around cervical screening and cancer in order to prevent any more women suffering because of a largerly preventable disease. I’ve been extremely open about my medical history, sharing my experience of smears, what happens when the results don’t come back normal and undergoing a procedure to remove pre-cancerous cells from my cervix. I’ve supported the GSK ‘Time To Test‘ initiative, spoken on the Sky News network about the importance of attending appointments and been able to support a huge number of readers through similar experiences. Suffice to say that I believe every woman should take responsibility for their own health; smear tests aren’t scary, but the result could be if you don’t attend them regularly.
This week Jo’s Trust are campaigning for women to understand the importance of cervical screening, as well as continuing their support of those that have been struck down with the disease. They’re raising funds to offer a helping hand to those women that need someone to talk to, as well as focusing upon education – if we don’t understand the health roulette we’re playing by not attending, how can we start to attempt to wipe out such a devastating illness? Smear tests take less time than boiling the kettle and are nowhere near as embarrassing as you may think; they’re swift, discrete and painless, but they could also potentially save your life. If you do one thing this week, then make sure it’s checking when your last smear test was or booking that appointment you’ve been putting off… Your lady bits will thank you for it in the years to come.
To donate to Jo’s Trust, text JOTR01 followed by the amount you would like to donate (including the £ sign) to 70070 – for example: JOTR01 £5.
Find out more about the work Jo’s Trust does via their website.