06:00 Monday 20 January 2014

Many women still fail to go for vital check

Written bySARAH BOULD

CERVICAL cancer hit headline a few years it when reality TV star Jade Goody made public her battle with the illness.

Following her death, women across the country started paying more attention when a letter dropped through their door reminding them to book an appointment for a cervical screening at their local GP surgery.

Since then the number of women going for a smear test has dropped significantly.

Through Cervical Cancer Prevention Week, women are being encouraged not to dismiss appointment letters.

Though cervical screening saves 5,000 lives every year over 20 per cent of women invited fail to attend.

Burton woman Kelly Bridgett’s life was saved thanks to a routine smear test which detected cervical cancer.

The 25-year-old shared her story with the Mail last June when she started a campaign to get the screening age reduced from 25 to 20 .

She told the Mail this week: “Andrew Griffiths is chasing it up for me but the age won’t be lowered for a number of reasons. “They are going to try and look into a hereditary link instead, so that someone is offered a test at a lower age if there is a history of it in their family.

“It’s not really the outcome we wanted but it’s better than nothing.

“I am still not giving up.”

The Winshill mother-of-two still has to go for check ups every six months to make sure everything is OK. She will also undergo an MRI scan next month

“It’s quite a taboo subject,’ she said, ‘even though it’s something that affects every woman.”

Kelly said if she could offer any advice to women, it would be not to put the test off: “It only takes a few minutes, is painless and it could save your life. If I had left mine God knows what could have been.

She added: “The number of woman going for smears is dropping every year.

“My five-year-old daughter turned around and said to me ‘Some people aren’t as lucky, some people grow wings and go to heaven. I’m glad you are still here.’

“It made me cry.”

There are over 3,300 new cases of cervical cancer diagnosed each year in the UK and more than half of these are aged 50 or under. In 2008/09 in the UK 3.6million women attended cervical screening, a rise for the first time in almost 10 years following publicity surrounding Jade Goody’s case. A year later attendance dropped to 3.3 million. Figures announced towards the end of 2012 indicate that the situation is worse in the 25-29 age group.

Although the downward trend for screening in this age group is showing a very small reversal, in 2011/12 almost one in three women aged 25-29 still ignore their invitation for screening.

Recent research shows that a high number of women diagnosed with cervical cancer either delayed or ignored their screening invitation.

Robert Marsh, CEO of The Eve Appeal, which raises funds for the work of the Department for Women’s Cancer at Universeity Collge London, and raises awareness of gynaecological cancers, said “Almost all cases of cervical cancer can be prevented by screening and HPV vaccination.

“The earlier cervical cancer is diagnosed, the better the outcome will be. Screening is free and can save your life so please pick up the phone as soon as that letter drops through the letter box.”

With support from the Department of Health, The Eve Appeal worked to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of cervical cancer and published a series of information materials called ‘What women need to know about cervical cancer’.

It hopes that the publication of these materials on cervical cancer will give women clear and concise information on the warning signs and symptoms of the disease; provide them with the advice they need to reduce their risk of contracting cervical cancer and encourage them to seek medical help sooner than they might otherwise have done.

To reduce the risk of developing cervical cancer women are advised to:

• Go for screening when invited

• If you smoke, try to stop

• Use a condom to reduce your risk of HPV and other infections.

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