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Sisters warn of the importance of cervical screening

A Bridlington Informer News Item from Bridlington.net - Visit Bridlington Informer

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Two sisters have come forward to urge women in the East Riding to attend their cervical cancer screening appointments when they are invited.

Previously, two local women came forward to encourage East Riding residents to take their cervical screening test when it is offered - and not to be embarrassed for the sake of their health - and now, two sisters have also been in touch to further emphasise the screening's importance.

Caroline Evans, a development officer from Beverley, said: "I always go for mine when I get the invite, granted it's not the nicest thing to do and I certainly don't look forward to it but at the end of the day what's a few minutes of discomfort every three years if it could save your life?" "I had a scare a couple of years ago when my test results came back with abnormalities. Everything ended up being fine but it could have gone the other way. But thanks to the test, this would have been picked up."

She went on to say that she doesn't understand why people don't go for screening and that's why she came forward, to reassure women that it is nothing to feel embarrassed about when it could save your life.

Caroline's sister, Victoria, a team leader from Goole, said: "Fortunately I have never had any problems with any of my smear tests but I always attend my appointments and would never dream of missing one. "I'd like to help other women see the importance of attending this test when they are invited."

It's Cervical Cancer Prevention Week (22-28 January) and as part of that, East Riding residents are being urged to take up their cervical screening invitations after statistics showed that one in five women fail to book and attend their smear tests. That's 20% who are throwing away the chance to detect the changes that could lead to cervical cancer and could be treated at an early stage.

As part of the NHS Cervical Screening Programme, women aged 25-49 are invited to attend cervical screening (or a smear test) at their GP practice every three years, and women aged 50-64 are invited to attend every five years. Cervical screening isn't a test for cancer; it's a test to check the health of the cells of the cervix (the entrance to the womb). Most women's test results show that everything is normal, but for around 1 in 20 women the test shows some abnormal changes in the cells of the cervix.

The symptoms of cervical cancer aren't always obvious, and it may not cause any symptoms at all until it's reached an advanced stage. This is why it's very important for women to attend all of their cervical screening appointments.

Two other women, from Bridlington and Beverley respectively, previously came forward to share their stories and experiences.

Caroline, an assistant from Bridlington, said: "I received my cervical screening invitation and, despite having just gone through a difficult break up and having other things on my mind, I made the appointment more or less straight away – which is very unlike me."A letter came in the post after my test – I knew it would be my smear test results and I had a sinking feeling that it wasn't great news – so I didn't open the envelope. My birthday was coming up a few days later and I didn't want to be worried about anything. However the nurse called within that time and after asking about the letter, urged me to open it so she could discuss the results.
"She explained that abnormal cells had been discovered and I needed a gynaecological appointment urgently. I was obviously shocked by this, at 46 years old and having had three children, and never having had an abnormal result before."I had to go for a colposcopy and was really apprehensive about the procedure, but it wasn't that bad – not that I'd ever want to do it again! The colposcopy highlighted some white areas on my cervix which could potentially turn into cancer if not removed.

"If I hadn't gone, which under my circumstances could have easily been the case, I could have ended up with cervical cancer.

"Eighteen months later I am back to normal and I am attending the normal three yearly tests. In my younger days I had put off smear tests, this is something I will never miss or put off again – if I had missed that one it could have been a very different story.

"Soon after my colposcopy my daughter, who was 24 years old at the time, received her invitation and made the appointment straight away."

Michelle, an officer from Beverley, said: "I am 55 and have gone for regular cervical screening ever since I was first invited to do so, which I am guessing was when I was in my early 20s. Thankfully I have never had an abnormal smear.
"As you get older you do suffer less from the embarrassment factor than you do when you're younger - I think that's a big barrier to younger women taking advantage of screening. My practice nurse used to laugh because I would lie on the table and put a pillow over my face and just pretend I was lying on a beach somewhere!

"I think it might have been a previous drive for screening of some sort but I once saw the strap line 'No one ever died of embarrassment' (the unspoken part of it obviously being that people can and do die of cancers that could have been treated at an earlier stage if they had gone for screening) and when I have to go for screenings I always have that in mind."

The test takes as little as approximately three minutes and East Riding of Yorkshire Council's Public Health team is encouraging people to put aside any embarrassment they feel in order to benefit from the long-term gain.

Any female can be affected regardless of their age, lifestyle choices or ethnicity and it's important to spread the message that a simple test can help prevent this devastating disease.

Councillor Jane Evison, portfolio holder for transforming lifestyles at East Riding of Yorkshire Council, said: "Cervical screening is an important opportunity for women to check their health and where treatment is needed it can be done at a much earlier stage.

"I would encourage women in the East Riding to respond to their invitation for screening."

For more information about the NHS Cervical Screening Programme visit www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Cervical-screening-test

For more information about cervical cancer and symptoms visit Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust's website www.jostrust.org.uk