It’s hard to believe it will be six years in March since the death from cervical cancer of reality TV star Jade Goody.
Jade was aged just 27 and may well have survived if she had undergone the regular screening tests that detect the disease in its early stages. That’s why GPs in South Lincolnshire have been working to prevent other needless deaths by supporting Cervical Cancer Awareness Week, which runs from 25 to 31 January to raise awareness of the disease.
Nearly 3,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year in the UK yet 20 per cent of women do not take up their invitation for cervical screening. This is very worrying as early-stage cervical cancers don’t usually have symptoms and are generally detected through screening.
Cervical cancer screening is a very powerful and effective screening tool that detects and treats precancerous areas. It detects changes in cervical cells which could lead to cervical cancer. In this way, it prevents full-blown cervical cancer and saves lives.
Women aged 25 to 65 are invited for screening. Women between the ages of 25 and 49 are screened every three years while those aged 50 to 64 are screened five yearly.
When symptoms do appear, they normally include abnormal or post-menopausal bleeding, unusual discharge, discomfort or pain during sex, or lower back pain. Women who have experienced any of the symptoms should talk to their GP. Chances are it won’t be cervical cancer but better to get it checked.
For younger women, there is now a vaccination against the persistent human papillomavirus (HPV) infection that causes changes to the cervical cells and is responsible for nearly all cervical cancers. The vaccine can help prevent 70 per cent of cervical cancers.
In older women, the most effective method of preventing cervical cancer is through the regular cervical screening which happens by invitation and which allows detection of any early changes of the cervix. Cervical cancer is largely preventable and, if caught early, survival rates are high.
The cancer forms in tissues of the cervix - the organ connecting the uterus and vagina. It is not thought to be hereditary.