Too many of us are not attending our Cervical Cancer Screening appointments. Facts! Last month (March 2019), Public Health England launched a new campaign to encourage more of us to attend an appointment when invited. We spoke to four Black women about their Cervical Cancer Screening experiences.
Since the NHS Cervical Screening programme was established in 1988, an estimated 5,000 lives are saved every year as a result of women attending their screening. However, coverage is at a 20-year low, which means more women are leaving themselves open to getting cancer unnecessarily.
“Around 2,600 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer in England each year and around 690 women die from the disease – that’s two deaths every day.”
“It is estimated that if everyone in England attended screening regularly, 83% of cervical cancer cases could be prevented.”
Having your screening, once you receive your invitation letter, is one of the most important things you can do to protect yourself from getting cervical cancer. In fact, it can stop cancer before it starts and save your life. And that’s why Raisa Alao, Zoe Penny, Kelita Bignall and Clair Carter are supporting the ‘Cervical Screening Saves Lives’ campaign by sharing their experiences.
In a recent survey, nine out of 10 women said they would take a test that could help prevent cancer, however research shows that one in four women do not attend their cervical screening. We also know that Black women are even less likely to attend. So why is attendance so low? Raisa shares her story:
Raisa Alao, 31
“These results don’t surprise me. I had never had the cervical screening test until a couple of years ago, I just kept putting it off. I booked a routine GP appointment and while I was there, the nurse spoke to me about the test, so I decided to have it done. A week later, the results came back showing that I had abnormal cells. I was really worried. However, the nurse informed me that the screening programme is in place to test women for abnormal cells and treat them before they become cancerous.
“Thank God I was successfully treated and I made a speedy recovery. I now have regular screenings. The screening test is nothing to be scared of; my screening tests have been absolutely fine, quick and painless. Most tests are done by a female nurse but I usually ask for this anyway to put my mind at rest.”
Kelita Bignall, 32
“I always go for my screenings, it’s a life-saving test. If you leave it and don’t go for your appointment when you get your invitation, you’re putting yourself at greater risk of getting cervical cancer. Women of all ethnic backgrounds are at risk of getting cervical cancer, so we shouldn’t think that it couldn’t happen to us.”
Zoe Penny, 47
“I think that cervical screening is a very important part of self-care for all eligible women and it’s only once every three years for women under 50.
“The nurses I have seen are very good at putting you at ease, so that you don’t feel embarrassed.”
Clair Carter, 41
“My cervical screening test was stress-free, painless and quick – it took less than five minutes of my time. Knowing that cervical screening is a preventative measure to protect myself against getting cancer was a no brainer for me to book my appointment and have the test.”
“Being in my early 40’s and a mum of two children, it’s something I feel I must do, for my own sake as well as my family.”
Raisa concludes: “I am supporting the ‘Cervical Screening Saves Lives’ campaign and I hope that all black women will join me and ensure you are all protecting yourself and your loved ones against cervical cancer by responding to your cervical screening invitation letter. Make sure you encourage your mother, daughters, sisters, aunties and friends to do the same. So, if you are due or if you’ve missed your last screening, book an appointment at your GP practice today.”
For further information visit NHS Cervical Screening.