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A very good smear campaign

This week is Cervical Screening Awareness Week.

A week where women are reminded that a five-minute appointment at the GP surgery every few years could save your life.

Could we all think of something else we’d rather be doing when our feet are in stirrups and we’re trying to have a breezy conversation while a stranger uses one of Inspector Gadget’s cotton buds to see how our cervix is doing?
I’m going to go out on a limb and speak for everyone when I say: Yes, yes we could.

But every day, eight women are diagnosed with cervical cancer and three women will die from it, so I’m going to continue speaking for us all when I say a smear test is one of the biggies you should never put off.

This week the charity Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust is particularly looking to push this message among older women (aged 50–64), who, as a group, are not attending as many cervical screening appointments as they should.
New research is pointing towards a lack of knowledge about the cause of cervical cancer – and who can be affected – as a contributing factor.
Almost two thirds of women in this age group do not know HPV causes cervical cancer, and many fail to link historic sexual activity as a threat to the virus lying dormant and developing into cervical cancer.
Alongside knowledge gaps, the study also revealed 29.1 per cent of women over 50 have found the test painful since growing older. There is concern that if attendance for cervical screening continues to decline among older women, more will face a later stage diagnosis of cervical cancer, putting them at a much higher risk of losing their lives to the disease.
It’s a concern shared by 54-year-old mother-of-three Amanda Alcock, who found out she had cervical cancer eight years after her last smear.

Amanda’s story JT

“I was diagnosed on 22 November 2011 when I was 51.
It had been eight years since my last smear. I’m a nurse, so I should have known better.
Mums always put themselves last, though – we lead busy lives, don’t we? It’s an easy thing to put off and the years went by. I’d always been very good at going regularly when I was younger.
I never thought anything would happen to me.
It was only because I had symptoms that I went to see the doctor. I’d had a bleed in between periods and after intercourse. I could also feel my uterus twitching a little bit. I knew something wasn’t right.

Read the full story in Standard Issue Magazine.

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