New blog aims to help dispel many myths behind cervical smear test

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In the UK, 20 per cent of women still do not attend smear tests, putting themselves at risk of leaving pre-cancerous cervical cells undetected. A new blog, entitled, 'my diary from down under', aims to help dispel many of the myths surrounding having a smear with the aim of putting women at ease and encouraging more women to attend their cervical screens when invited.

Nikki Bayley, healthcare writer and journalist, will be tracking and blogging her real life "journey" of having a smear from the moment she picks up the phone and makes an appointment, until the results land on her doorstep. As she is passionate about encouraging women to take responsibility for their own health, Nikki is launching the blog to raise awareness of cervical cancer and the importance of screening.

'I completely understand why many women don't go for a smear. It may not seem to be a priority, or women may be worried about the results and not exactly relish the thought of the procedure itself. I put off making my smear appointment when I was recently invited, which I am not proud of, so now I have decided to share my experience with others in the hope of highlighting the benefits and dispelling some of the myths, whilst helping women to overcome any concerns,' says Nikki.

Around one thousand women die of cervical cancer in the UK each year. It is estimated that early detection through cervical screening and subsequent treatment can prevent up to 75 per cent of cervical cancers from developing in the UK.

The current system of cervical cancer screening, introduced in the late 1980s throughout the NHS, is aimed at women across the UK aged 20 to 65 years. Women are invited to attend screening every three or five years depending on age, and the system operates on a recall basis if the smear appears abnormal.

The link between cervical cancer and infection from the human papillomavirus (HPV) is widely recognised. Persistent HPV infection can lead to the development of pre-cancerous and cancerous cells in the cervix.

Paul Eros, director of molecular diagnostics at leading healthcare company, Roche, sponsors of the blog, said: 'Latest scientific research from around the world indicates that testing for HPV is a surer method of pinpointing high-risk cases of cervical pre-cancer since the virus is associated with >99.7 per cent of all cervical cancer. Currently, the screening programme does not test on a routine basis for the presence of HPV. Doing so could lead to better detection of those women at risk. Also, women who are not at risk benefit from attending screens less often, leading to cost and efficiency savings for the NHS.'

'It is important to note' stressed Paul Eros, 'that HPV testing still involves women going for their screens and this is a very clear message in the blog. What is different, is the way in which the sample is analysed.'

Nikki adds, 'These innovations are good news for the future but women won't be able to benefit if they don't attend their smear in the first instance. I want to highlight in my blog that the smear only takes a few minutes and, yet, it could save your life.'

Robert Music, director, Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust said, 'We welcome this blog as an innovative way to remind women how essential it is to attend cervical screening when they are invited under the current national screening programme. We know that HPV testing has the ability to identify those women at risk of cervical pre-cancer at an earlier stage and it is great to see that this technology is going to be introduced in England for women with mild or borderline results. Concurrently, however, we must all work hard to increase awareness through channels like this blog and Cervical Screening Awareness Week, to remind women how vital it is to attend their cervical screen. This is evermore important, highlights Robert Music, 'as most recent screening statistics have shown a fall in the number of women taking up their invitation for screening.'




The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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