We live in an age where wellness and optimal health are constantly on the agenda, but unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to be the case when it comes to cervical screening attendance.
Cervical cancer screenings for women between the ages of 25 and 64 are at a 20-year low according to Public Health England. So much so, that this governing body has launched the Cervical Screening Saves Lives campaign, urging women to attend their appointments once invited.
Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer in women under 35 in England, but it is also preventable. In 2016, a study found that BAME women in the UK were less likely to attend cervical screening appointments than their white counterparts due to a range of barriers. These included English not being a first language, lower perceived risk of cervical cancer and lack of time for appointments. The study also found that women who migrated to the UK as adults were least likely to attend screenings for similar reasons. The results of this study suggest that governing bodies must ensure that screenings are made more accessible for black and ethnic minority women in the UK.
More recently, online magazine Keep the Faith spoke to four black women about their screening experience in the hope that it would encourage more of us to attend ours. Each of their experiences affirm why it’s necessary for Black British women to respond to their appointment invitation.
Although there is no single method of totally preventing cervical cancer, the smear test is one of the ways to reduce women’s risk of developing the disease. The procedure involves an instrument being inserted into the vagina, where it will then obtain cells from the cervix which are screened for any abnormalities. All in all, the process is pretty simple. However, feelings around this potentially life-saving procedure can range from anxiety, to shame or embarrassment. Survivors of sexual assault may find this procedure triggering, with some choosing to avoid it altogether.
The thought of this admittedly intimate process is enough to put many women off booking their appointment. However, screening is known to detect and reduce the risk of developing complications in later life. Each year, around 2,600 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer and of those, around 690 women pass away from it. Screenings are also estimated to prevent around 70 percent of cervical cancer deaths. With this in mind, it’s too valuable a process to bypass.
I had my first cervical cancer screening last year and it was all very straightforward. The nurse made me feel relaxed and as a result, it was over before it had really begun. Initially, the idea of the screening was daunting. However, my own positive experience affirmed that this was a small price to pay to ensure my risk of cervical cancer was lowered. The NHS recommends that women between the ages of 25 to 49 get screened every three years, while women aged 50 to 64 are encouraged to get screened every five.
Are you or your loved one due to be screened? Contact your GP or encourage others to book an appointment today.