Women urged to keep potentially life-saving cervical screening date

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With around 3,000 women in the UK diagnosed with cervical cancer each year – there is a renewed plea for better take up of the free NHS screening invitation.

Figures show that only around one in three women take up their screening invite, but 75 per cent of cervical cancers can be prevented by cervical screening.

And while statistics regionally show a higher uptake during 2020-2022 than those nationally, North West Anglia NHS Foundation Trust is using Cervical Cancer Prevention Week (January 22-28) to urge everyone who is invited to attend screening to keep the date.

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While many women automatically receive a screening appointment from the age of 24 and a half years to attend their GP surgery, some are referred to Peterborough City Hospital.

Colposcopy/gynae oncology clinical nurse specialist Michelle Hydes  Colposcopy/gynae oncology clinical nurse specialist Michelle Hydes
Colposcopy/gynae oncology clinical nurse specialist Michelle Hydes

A monthly smear clinic, which sees up to 13 patients in one day, is run by Trust Colposcopy/Gynae Oncology Clinical Nurse Specialist Michelle Hydes.

Michelle said: “Many of the patients coming into the clinic have already had their screening performed but have received abnormal results so are assessed in the colposcopy clinic.

“During this assessment, the patient may be discharged for repeat screening in 12 months or in three years’ time depending on what we see.

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“They may require a biopsy for further investigation, or they may have treatment at their outpatient appointment – based on the screening result they have been referred to us with.

The aim is to treat any pre-cancerous cells before they develop further.

“Some women however, experience difficulties with their screening in the community, and so are referred to our gynaecology department for their cervical screening.”

The NHS cervical screening programme invites women aged between 24.5 and 64 for cervical screening.

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The screening test aims to pick up changes early that could develop into cervical cancer if left untreated.

However, cervical screening (sometimes referred to as a smear test) continues to remain something of a taboo subject.

Michelle added: “We would urge all women who receive a letter to take up their invitation for screening in the primary care setting in the first instance.

“We do understand that many people will feel anxious about having cervical screening, and there are things we can do to make patients feel more comfortable. Patients have the right to request a female health professional carry out the test and / or ask for a chaperone to be present.

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“It only takes 10 minutes to perform a smear test, but that 10 minutes goes a long way to preventing cervical cancer.”

The awareness week is again being supported by Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, a UK charity dedicated to women affected by cervical cancer and cervical abnormalities.

The Trust was created to raise awareness of cervical cancer which, despite being a preventable disease, claims three lives every day.


During 2021/22 there was a 68.6 per cent uptake in the UK for women aged between 24.5 and 49 years for screening. For the East of England, that figure was 71.4 per cent.

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The figures for women aged between 50 and 64 years are; 75 per cent for the UK with 76.3 per cent for the East of England. Both have shown a slight decrease in uptake from 2020/2022.

Early cervical cancers and pre-cancerous cell changes don't usually have symptoms. One in 142 women will be diagnosed with cervical cancer in their lifetime (Cancer Research UK 2021), but not everyone will have symptoms. Therefore, attending regular cervical screening is important.

The most common symptoms of cervical cancer (and when to seek medical advice) include:

  • unusual vaginal bleeding
  • pain or discomfort during sex
  • abnormal vaginal discharge
  • pain in the area between the hip bones (pelvis)

· There are also a number of ways which can help with the prevention of cervical cancer - find more information.