I am director of Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, the UK’s only charity dedicated to women, their families and friends affected by cervical abnormalities and cervical cancer. We offer a range of support and information both online and face to face.
Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer amongst women aged 35 and under in the UK and every day 3 women a day in the UK die from cervical cancer and each year around 2,800 are newly diagnosed. In addition some 300,000 women a year are told they may have a cervical abnormality that might require treatment.
Next week is Cervical Cancer Prevention Week (22-28th January). This provides an excellent opportunity for us to remind the general public and healthcare professionals about the causes and symptoms of cervical cancer. I am very grateful to the Royal Pharmaceutical Society for promoting the week and delighted that we have seen a huge number of requests for our materials from pharmacists.
Thanks to cervical screening and HPV vaccination, cervical cancer is largely preventable.
I joined Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust just after Jade Goody was diagnosed with cervical cancer and as a result of her highly publicised battle the charity saw a 300% increase in demands on its service whilst there was a surge in women being screened with 400,000 extra attending, the first rise in a decade. Nearly three years since her death screening uptake is sadly almost back to pre Jade levels.
During Prevention Week I will have the opportunity to speak to and hopefully influence key policy makers about the need for increased efforts to target women about the importance of screening, including a reception we are running at the House of Commons. We will also be running a joint conference with the NHS Cervical Screening Programme bringing together organisations supporting Black and Minority Ethnic communities.
Why is this important? Feedback from our surveys over the past year, have shown a range of barriers to screening including flexibility amongst employers and GP surgery hours . There is also a real problem with how women are communicated with about screening and that for many there is a lack of understanding as to why it is so important or even relevant.
Tragically, I see far too many women diagnosed with cervical cancer who didn’t attend screening. As one women recently said “If only I’d gone for my regular screening, perhaps things would have been different now”.