The 23rd – 29th January is Cervical Cancer Prevention Week. Cervical cancer is most treatable when it is caught early so it is important to know the symptoms of cervical cancer and to attend for screening when called. Cervical screening aims to prevent cervical cancers by detecting early precancerous changes in the cells that line the cervix. Women aged 25-49 should be called for a smear test every 3 years and women aged 50-64 should be called every 5 years.
Be aware of the symptoms associated with cervical cancer:
- Leg swelling
- Back ache
- Pain or bleeding after sex
- Abnormal vaginal discharge
- Bloody stools
- Dizziness, fatigue
- unexpected weight loss
- abdominal pain
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of cervical cancer don’t wait until your next scheduled screening, book an appointment with your GP. Cervical cancer often has no symptoms in the early stages and so it is vitally important to attend for screening when invited.
There are many myths surrounding cervical cancer so it is important to be informed. There is a common misconception that if you have had the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine you don not need to go for screening, this is false. The HPV vaccine, which is now routinely offered to pupils aged 12-13 years protects against only two of the ‘high risk’ types of Human Papilloma Virus. It doesn’t protect against those caused by other ‘high risk’ types of the virus, or against Human Papilloma virus infections you may have picked up before you were vaccinated.
The myth that lesbian and bisexual women don’t need to worry about cervical cancer is false. Human Papilloma Virus spreads by intimate skin-to-skin contact. Lesbian and bisexual women can get infected with the virus and develop cervical cancer.
Post-menopausal women are still at risk of developing cervical cancer. Anyone with a cervix can get cervical cancer. Routine screening is offered between the ages of 25 and 64. If you are over 64 you can call your GP to make a screening appointment but you will not be called routinely.
WRDA’s groundbreaking Breast, Cervical and Bowel Screening Awareness programme was developed to tackle the low uptake of screening invitations by women living in some areas of NI. The programme is delivered by Community Facilitators who have completed our accredited Level 3 Certificate in Learning and Development. The programme consists of three sessions and aims to raise awareness of the screening available, encourage participants to attend for screening and explores and addresses any fears surrounding the screening process.
The programme can also be tailored to meet the requirements of groups with additional needs such as sight impairment, learning disability and speakers of other languages. The programme is available free for community groups, if you would like to find out more call the office on 028 9023 0212.
By Megan McClure Botha | Communications and Membership Worker, WRDA