Women urged to take up offer of vital cervical screenings as attendance drops across Lancashire and South Cumbria

Women are being urged to accept NHS cervical screening invites after new figures show three in 10 of those eligible for screening do not take up the potentially life-saving offer.

The NHS Cervical Screening Programme, England 2022-2023 annual report, published by NHS England, found that 68.7 per cent of 25 to 64 year-olds had attended screening within the recommended period of time, compared to 69.9 per cent the previous year.

Attendance in Blackburn with Darwen (63.1 per cent) and Blackpool (64.8 per cent) is significantly lower than the national average, and while Cumbria (75.1 per cent) and the Lancashire local authority area (70.3 per cent) are above the average, they are both seeing lower figures in 2023 than in 2022.

The NHS invites women for screening every three to five years depending on their age, or more frequently if the high-risk human papillomavirus (HPV) is detected, with the programme saving thousands of lives annually.

Dr Ewa Craven, women’s health lead for Lancashire and South Cumbria Integrated Care Board (ICB), said: “The Cervical Screening Programme helps save thousands of lives every year and I would encourage those who are invited to ensure they attend their screening. It can be vital in finding early abnormalities that can be treated before there are even any signs of cancer.

“The screenings check for high-risk Human Papillomavirus (HPV), which may cause abnormal cells to develop in the cervix. It is a common virus that most people have at some point in their life without realising, and in most cases it usually goes away on its own. However, over time these cells can turn into cancer if left untreated.”

People who receive an invite can contact their GP practice to arrange a cervical screening appointment, and some sexual health clinics also offer cervical screening.

Even women who are not sexually active now or in the past should accept their invites for a test as they can also be affected by cervical cancer.

If you struggle to understand the information included in your invite or have concerns before attending an appointment, please speak to a health professional or cancer champion at your practice who will be able to explain, reassure and suggest information in a different format.

Dr Lindsey Dickinson, a GP in Lancashire and South Cumbria and associate medical director for the ICB, said: “Screenings typically take place at your GP practice, and there shouldn’t be anything to worry about – staff at the practices will help you feel at ease and treat you with dignity.

“It can be a little uncomfortable but the check only takes a few minutes and it is so important.

“If you receive an invite, especially if you have missed your last screening, please make sure you book your appointment. A screening could ultimately save your life.”

Last week the NHS pledged to eliminate cervical cancer by 2040 by making it as easy as possible for people to get the lifesaving HPV vaccination and increasing cervical screening uptake.

It is still important to attend cervical screening appointments if you have been vaccinated against HPV as the vaccine does not provide protection from all types of HPV, so there is a still a small chance of getting cervical cancer.

More information on NHS cervical screening and how to book an appointment is available at www.nhs.uk/conditions/cervical-screening.

Read the full report: NHS Cervical Screening Programme, England 2022-2023

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