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Written on 14th February 2022 by Richard Money-Kyrle

A new, national, NHS campaign is calling on all who are eligible for cervical screening to book a screening appointment and not to ignore their screening invitation. The Help Us Help You – Cervical Screening Saves Lives campaign aims to increase the uptake of cervical screening in England, after data reveals that almost 1 in 3 eligible women or people with a cervix don’t take up their offer of cervical screening (smear test). A new survey has also revealed that embarrassment, worries that the smear might be painful, and simply putting it off, are common reasons for ignoring an invite for cervical screening.

The Help Us Help You – Cervical Screening Saves Lives campaign urges those who are invited for screening, or who have missed their last appointment, to book an appointment with their GP surgery or sexual health clinic.

What will the Help Us Help You – Cervical Screening Saves Lives campaign do?

The Help Us Help You – Cervical Screening Saves Lives campaign will run throughout England from 14th February to 14th March 2022. TV advertising, social media, and support from charities including Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, will be among the many ways in which the campaign’s message will reach the public.  The campaign also includes activity targeted towards people from Black and South Asian and LGBTQ+ communities, who experience additional specific barriers to taking up screening.

In England, approximately 2,700 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year. Around 690 women die from the disease, or two deaths every day. Cervical screening is believed to prevent 70% of deaths from cervical cancer, but 83% of deaths could be avoided if everyone attended regularly for screening. The latest available figures from the Cervical Screening Programme England (dated March 2021) show that 30% of women and people with a cervix aged between 25 and 64 who were eligible for cervical screening were not screened.

The Help Us Help You – Cervical Screening Saves Lives campaign is supported by a film in which female rights activist, Sharon Gaffka, Dr Zoe Williams  and other celebrities talk about cervical screening to address concerns, tackle barriers to cervical screening and encourage all who are eligible to get screened.

What are women’s (and people with a cervix) experiences of cervical screening?

An online survey, commissioned by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), asked of 3,000 women and people with a cervix, aged 25-64, explored what they thought about cervical screening.

Key findings of the survey included:

  • Embarrassment was the most common reason (42%) for never having attended cervical screening or for missing an appointment;
  • 34% hadn’t attended because they had put it off;
  • 28% hadn’t attended because they were worried about it being painful;
  • 12% don’t feel comfortable talking about cervical screening with anyone;
  • 48% said they would talk to a friend;
  • 46% said they would talk to their partner;
  • 39% said they would talk to their mother;
  • 15% of lesbian or bisexual women over 25 had never had a smear test, compared with 7% of women over 25 in general.

However, when those who had been screened were asked about their experience at their most recent cervical screening test:

  • 89% said they were glad they had attended a cervical screening (cervical smear);
  • 63% said they were nervous when they attended;
  • 81% said the nurse or doctor put them at ease during their cervical screening;
  • 58% were surprised about how quick the test was;
  • 89% said they would encourage others who are worried to go for a test.

Why is it important to have cervical screening?

A cervical smear test, or screening, is free for eligible women or people with a cervix and only takes just a few minutes, but can prevent cervical cancer before it starts.

The DHSC press release quotes Dr Nikki Kanani, Medical Director for Primary Care at NHS England as saying in support of the  Help Us Help You – Cervical Screening Saves Lives campaign:

There is no doubt about it - cervical screening saves lives. By screening for risk signs at an early stage, it means that any abnormal cells can be treated quickly before they potentially develop into cancer. We know that it can feel embarrassing or feel like something that you can easily put off, but accepting your invite and getting checked could save your life.

In England, NHS cervical screening is offered to women and people with a cervix between the ages of 24.5 and 49 every three years. For those between the ages of 50 and 64, screening is offered every five years. The campaign will emphasise that screening, which only takes a few minutes, can help stop cervical cancer before it starts, and is being supported by charities, including Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust.

Cervical screening checks for high-risk types of the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), a common virus that most people will get at some point. While for people with high-risk HPV the risk of getting cancer is low, any abnormal changes can be identified early. Cell changes are easily treated, and this prevents cervical cancer. That is why attending screening appointments is so important.”

Boyes Turner help clients who have suffered injury from avoidable cervical cancer

Boyes Turner’s clinical negligence team support the aims of the Help Us Help You – Cervical Screening Saves Lives campaign, and the valuable work carried out by Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust.  

Our cancer negligence specialists are experienced in recovering compensation for women and their families after mistakes lead to severe harm from avoidable cervical cancer. Compensation can help meet the costs of care and support, necessary house adaptations and psychological treatment that may be needed as a result of severe, debilitating injury. It can also help bereaved families cope with the financial impact that inevitably follows the death of a mother or partner.

If you have suffered severe injury or bereavement as a result of medical negligence and would like to find out more about making a claim, you can speak to one of our solicitors, free and confidentially, by contacting us here.