The Lady Garden Foundation is a national health charity on a mission to raise awareness and funding for gynaecological health. January marks Cervical Cancer Awareness Week (18-24th January) and a chance to shine the spotlight further on the importance of knowing the symptoms and seeking medical advice for
With over 500,000 women diagnosed with cervical cancer each year globally, there are two key elements in this fight – prevention and early diagnosis. According to Cancer Research UK, 99.8% of cervical cancer cases are preventable.
The NHS cervical screening programme offers testing to women between the ages of 25 and 64 with more than four million women invited for cervical screening each year in England. The smear test is to check the health of your cervix and the cells that are taken during the smear, using a small brush, will be tested for HPV. This is the name for a very common group of viruses and some types of HPV in the cervix can cause abnormal changes in the cells that can sometimes turn into cancer. Around 1 in 100 women screened will have an abnormal result. This does not man that all women with an abnormal test will develop cervical cancer. Early treatment can prevent these cervical changes developing into cancer.
Whilst the screening programme was paused temporarily in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the nation needs to re-engage with the NHS as the cervical screening programme continues across the UK and GP’s surgeries are open.
The most common symptom of cervical cancer is bleeding from the vagina at times other than when you are having a period. This includes between periods, after or during sex or at any time if you are past your menopause. Some women also have vaginal discharge that smells unpleasant or discomfort or pain during sex. It is vital that women visit their doctor with any concerns and if any of these symptoms are persistent and not normal for you
Based on a survey carried out by The Lady Garden Foundation, across 100 women from the ages of 18 to 44+, a worrying 78% of women were unaware of the five different gynaecological cancers and 86% of them did not know what symptoms to look out for.
There is no single screening test available for all five gynaecological cancers which is why knowing what to look out for is so important. Raising awareness of these symptoms could lead to earlier diagnoses and essentially save lives and removing the taboo on the subject of women’s sexual health is so important.
Dr John Butler, Medical Director of The Lady Garden Foundation and Consultant Gynaecologist at The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust comments:
“Every year, around 3,200 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer in the UK and The Royal Marsden is a major national centre for the management of these patients, seeing over 200 each year. This is a type of cancer which could one day be largely eradicated in the UK thanks to the national programme to vaccinate school age girls and boys against the high-risk human papillomavirus (HPV), which can lead to cervical cancer, and by women attending screening appointments.”
“Cervical screening can detect HPV early before it develops into cancer, preventing about 75% of cases. It can also lead to a diagnosis of cervical cancer at the earliest possible stage, where treatment is less invasive and more likely to be successful.”
“However, there has been a worrying decline in screening attendance in the UK over the last few years and in particular since the screening programme was temporarily halted in March. According to the latest figures, a quarter of women don’t attend.”
“As early detection can mean more effective treatment or even prevention, I urge women to attend their cervical screening appointment. Along with the recent introduction of the HPV vaccine, if cervical screening attendance increases, we will see a noticeable drop in cervical cancer rates and improved survival within the next five years.”
Jenny Halpern Prince, co-founder and chair of The Lady Garden Foundation comments: “The Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted all our lives but the knock-on effect it will have on cancer diagnosis and survival rates is frightening. It’s more important now than ever that we visit our GP’s with any concerns. Knowing the symptoms and getting an early diagnosis can save lives. It’s as simple as that.”
Talking about and understanding the symptoms of the cancers will save lives. Help us by joining the conversation – it’s time to ensure these cancers are #SilentNoMore.