13th Jun 2018
Five minutes of embarrassment may save your life is the message being sent out to women across West Norfolk to have their Cervical Cancer screening test.
The Cervical Cancer Screening Programme, previously known as a “Smear”, can help to detect precancerous cells but only 73% of women who are registered with a West Norfolk GP attend their appointments.
Cervical Cancer is a common cancer for women under 35.
Women and people with a cervix are invited between 3 and 5 years to undertake the test but thousands of eligible women in this area are not taking advantage of this.
Now a fresh call to encourage women to keep to their smear test appointments is being made by Dr Uma Balasubramaniam, the new GP member of West Norfolk Clinical Commissioning Group, as part of Cervical Screening Awareness Week.
Dr Balasubramaniam, who specialised in Gynaecology, said: “I know that some women can be put off from attending their smear test as they are concerned about body image but please don’t let that stop you from having a test that could potentially save your life.
“As a doctor who has completed these tests, I can assure you that we are not concerned if you have shaved nor if there is a smell. All we are concerned about is getting the sample and getting it sent off. So please do not let that put you off.
“I had a patient who was 35 and a mother who lost her life to cervical cancer and had not attended her smear test appointments.”
Around 5 million women in this country are invited to have a screening test but one in four do not attend.
The screening programme, which was introduced in the 1980s, allows clinicians to prevent 75 per cent of cervical cancers from developing.
Women aged between 25 and 49 are invited every three years for a test while the 50 to 64 age group are offered appointments every five years. Women over the age of 65 are invited if they have not been tested since the age of 50 or had abnormal tests.
This test does not check for cancer but looks at the health of the cells within the cervix. A small soft brush is used to collect cells from a cervix after the walls of the vagina are held open by a speculum.
Dr Balasubramaniam said: “I always tell patients that I have been at the opposite edge of the couch and I know what it feels like. I always try to be gentle and if it hurts I stop.”
Cervical Screening Awareness Week is being run by Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust from Monday, June 11, to Sunday, June 17.
Picture: Dr Uma Balasubramaniam is calling on women in West Norfolk to attend their cervical screening test.