Tomorrow starts Cervical Cancer Prevention Week (18th-24th January), which aims to raise awareness of how cervical cancer can be prevented.
Charities say that it is crucial, now more than ever, to educate others on the importance of attending screenings after the disruption caused by the Covid-19 to routine appointments.
There is concern too that a significant number of women might be discouraged from attending smear tests due to worries over the safety of visiting a GP practice during the pandemic.
Disruption to Screenings Caused by Covid-19
According to a survey carried out by Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust during summer last year, a quarter of women were worried about the risk of catching Covid-19 if they attended a cervical cancer screening appointment.
Around one in eight women (12%) said they thought it was best to delay going for cervical screening during the pandemic. 29% said they didn’t feel it was safe to visit a GP surgery at the time and 36% felt anxious about their safety (or the safety of someone they live with).
There was also a major pause in screening appointments during the first lockdown.
Around 600,000 tests would normally have been carried out in the UK in April and May, but many were cancelled or delayed, according to Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust.
A large proportion of women nationwide also missed their routine breast screening last year due to delayed and cancelled appointments as a result of coronavirus measures.
Breast Cancer Now estimates that almost 1 million women in the UK missed their mammograms due to breast screening programmes being paused in March last year in order to reduce the risk of Covid- 19 spreading as well as to free up emergency resources for the NHS.
In addition, the charity is concerned that as many as 8,600 women could be living with undetected breast cancer as a result of their diagnosis being delayed.
Although screenings are now available again and rescheduled tests can now go ahead, the availability of appointments has been significantly reduced due to social distancing measures.
Attending routine screenings for breast cancer and cervical cancer are vital in early detection and diagnosis.
Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust found that women are more likely to attend their routine tests if they have clear information and reassurance about the Covid-secure measures in place at appointments.
43% of all respondents said more information or reassurance about safety measures would make them more likely to have a test, and 36% would feel more comfortable attending if they were sure the nurse would be wearing a mask.
Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust is encouraging raised awareness this Cervical Cancer Prevention Week by spreading clear information about the importance of smear tests and safety of appointments during the pandemic.
The charity hopes that, by providing the facts, people will feel more comfortable attending screening appointments at their GP practice.
How You Can Help
Although the current restrictions might make finding ways of fundraising a little more challenging, Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust is encouraging those who are able to raise awareness, share stories and campaign online and at work.
As well as setting up virtual collections, Jo’s suggests distributing information materials, either online or on display in your workplace, available for free on their website.
Jo’s annual campaign, #SmearForSmear will also be taking place across the week.
The charity is encouraging people to share a tip, a story or a reminder throughout the campaign and post a photo of them with smeared lipstick on social media with #SmearForSmear.