Coronavirus has changed a lot of things, but Cervical Screening Awareness Week isn’t one of them.
This week Bay Health and Care Partners are reassuring women it’s safe to attend their appointments, despite the pandemic.
Every year in the UK, 5 million women are invited for cervical screening but over the past few months, many tests have been postponed and invitations paused.
However, cervical screening invitations have started to be issued again from this month.
Dr Sarah Arun, Barrow GP and GP Executive Lead for Elective Care and Cardiovascular Health at Morecambe Bay Clinical Commissioning Group said: “A lot of the national screening programmes were paused when lockdown was announced, but now lockdown is being eased, they are starting up again.
“Primary care was very quick to respond to the coronavirus outbreak and within days identified ways of keeping patients exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 separate to those who aren’t.
“Some GP surgeries identified different sites, and these are called Red Hubs, while others use different rooms in their surgeries. So, we can assure women that when they come for their cervical screening, procedures are in place to keep them safe.”
Cervical cancer affects around 3,000 women in the UK every year and is the most common form of cancer for women under the age of 35.
Attending cervical screening is the best way to help prevent cervical cancer, however last year attendance was at a 20-year low, with recent data showing that one in four women in the Morecambe Bay area not attending their cervical screening.
Dr Arun explained: “Cervical screening is not a test for cancer, it is a test to help prevent cancer. We test for potentially harmful cells which can turn into cancer and if we find them, action is taken to prevent them from developing.
“All clinicians will be adhering to government guidance and will be using Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) which includes, plastic aprons, face masks and plastic gloves. Also, all rooms are being cleaned down between each patient and waiting rooms have been restructured to ensure a 2-metre distance can be kept between people.”
The NHS offers a screening for all women, starting around their 25th birthday and up to the age of 49 every three years, and all women aged 50 to 64 every five years.
Patients will receive an invitation by letter from their GP practice when they are due for a cervical screening.
Cervical screening lasts for about five minutes, and you only have to go once every three or five years depending on your age.
Dr Arun added: “It’s five minutes that could save your life. Please don’t ignore your cervical screening invite.”
For tips on how to make cervical screening more comfortable please visit https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/cervical-screening/