A Public Health England campaign, which launches today (Tuesday 5th March), encourages all women to respond to their cervical screening invitation letters, and if they missed previous invites, to book an appointment at their GP practice.

NHS Cervical Screening saves as many as 5000 lives a year in the UK.  It is estimated that if everyone attended screening regularly, 83% of cervical cancer cases could be prevented.   However, screening is at a 20-year low, with one in four women in the UK not attending their test

Cervical screening lasts about five minutes, and you only have to go once every three or five years depending on your age. It is five minutes that could save your life.

  1. Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer among women under the age of 35
  2. Around 690 women die from cervical cancer each year in England – two women a day.
  3. NHS Cervical Screening saves as many as 5,000 lives a year in the UK
  4. It has been estimated that in England, cervical screening prevents 70% of cervical cancer deaths and that if everyone attended screening regularly, 83% of cervical cancer deaths could be prevented
  5. Over one million women invited to cervical screening last year didn’t go.
  6. Women aged 25 to 49 are invited for routine screening every three years, and those aged 50 to 64 are invited for routine screening every five years. If you missed your invite, call your GP practise and book an appointment
  7. Most cases of cervical cancer are caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) which is a common virus that four out of five (80%) of us will have at some point during our lives. HPV lives on our skin, so it is easy to get and difficult to completely protect against
  8. The appointment itself only lasts around five minutes and it could save your life.
  9. It’s possible for sexually active women of all ages to develop cervical cancer, although the condition is most common in women aged 30 to 45. The condition is very rare in women under 25
  10. 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. Most of these changes won’t lead to cervical cancer and the cells may go back to normal on their own

Jo Johnston had a letter sent to her from her local practice, asking her to come in for her cervical screening. She explains her experience:

“Like a lot of people, I was a bit nervous when I had my letter through to say it was time for my smear test. I was definitely worried about it being sore, and the thought of it is a bit embarrassing. In actual fact, I didn’t really have anything to worry about. When I booked my screening, I didn’t need to tell the receptionist what it was for, I just said I had received a letter asking me to book an appointment with the practice nurse.

“When I got there, the nurse sat me down and explained exactly what was going to happen, what the screening is looking for, and why it was really good that I had come in. Having the actual test wasn’t particularly pleasant, but it definitely wasn’t painful.

“When I got the results back, there were some abnormal cells showing, which I eventually had to have removed, but I think people forget that the procedures that someone would have to go through if cervical cancer did have the chance to develop are so much more invasive than just having a screening, which literally takes less than five minutes.”

Cate Edwynn, Director of Public Health at Derby City Council added:

“It is so important that women attend their cervical screening appointments. If you have received an invitation and are worried or embarrassed about attending, please don’t be. Screening programmes like this are designed to save lives.”

For more information, visit nhs.uk/cervicalscreening