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Cervical cancer need not be a killer in our City

The number of women being diagnosed with cervical cancer in the UK has reached its highest level in 15 years.

NHS Nottingham City Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) has been supporting Cervical Screening Awareness Week by reminding women in the City about the importance of screening and early detection of cervical cancer. Regular cervical screening provides early detection of abnormal cells which, if left untreated, could develop into cancer of the cervix.  

NHS Nottingham City CCG has set a target in its three year Commissioning Strategy to increase the percentage of women who attend for cervical screening (smear test) when invited to 85%. Despite a short term increase following the death of Big Brother star Jade Goody to the disease, Nottingham (like many similar cities) has struggled to maintain high screening levels with some wards of the City only managing 50% uptake following invitation.

Currently, around 18 cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed in Nottingham City each year, with almost 3,000 women being diagnosed with the disease every year in the UK. More than half of these are women under the age of 50 and it is the second most common cancer in women under the age of 35. Despite this, an average of 22% of women in the UK still do not attend for screening when invited.

Dr Safiy Karim, GP Lead for Cancer at NHS Nottingham City CCG said: “It’s really important that women attend for cervical screening when they are contacted with an appointment as this is the best way of reducing the risk of developing cervical cancer.

“Any woman who has abnormal bleeding or discharge, for example after sexual intercourse or after the menopause, should also see their GP for cervical screening.”

Dr Karim added: “Abnormal cells on the cervix which can lead to cervical cancer don’t usually present any symptoms. Attending regular screenings is therefore vital to early detection in women that appear well and present no symptoms. Where abnormal cells are found, treatment is usually simple and can save lives.”

For younger women, vaccination is available against the human papillomavirus (HPV) infection that causes changes to the cervical cells and is responsible for almost all cervical cancers. The vaccine is offered to secondary school girls aged 12-13 as part of the NHS childhood vaccination programme, and to those between the ages of 12 and 18 who have not completed the vaccination course.

Currently, women aged 25 to 64, who are registered with a GP, are automatically invited for free cervical screening every 3 to 5 years. Screening can be carried out by a GP or practice nurse, often with the option of a female doctor or nurse. Screening is also available at local family planning or sexual health clinics. Cervical cancer is very rare in women under the age of 25, but women of all ages are encouraged to see their GP if they notice any unusual symptoms or have any concerns.

Published: 13 June 2014