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Women in Scotland urged to 'nip cervical cancer in the bud'

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

New drive launches to kick-start the conversation around cervical screening

A woman diagnosed with cervical cancer after a routine smear test have cautioned against ignoring a screening invite.

Lisa Maher, 30, from Glasgow spoke out at the launch of a bold new NHS Health Scotland and Scottish Government drive to get women talking about cervical screening, and raise awareness of its benefits.

A short film, entitled Flower (https://youtu.be/Y9z2n0IsUzA) has been created to challenge the reasons women give for not attending their smear.

With six women being diagnosed with cervical cancer every week in Scotland1, the film urges viewers to ‘nip cervical cancer in the bud’, by not ignoring their next smear invite or contacting their GP practice if they missed their last smear.

A smear test can detect cells that could turn into cancer. The five minute test is the best way to protect women from the disease and helps save around 5,000 lives a year in the UK2.

All women in Scotland aged 25 to 49 are offered a smear test every three years while those aged 50 to 64 are invited every five years.

The campaign will target those aged 25-35 in Scotland, as cervical cancer is the most common cancer in women of this age group3.  Statistics highlight between 1 April 2015 and 31 March 2016, one in three women (33 per cent) aged 25-35 didn’t go for their smear when invited4.

Lisa Maher, who credits the test with saving her life, is backing the campaign in the hope of encouraging other women, like her, to take part in screening.

The mother of two, who routinely attended her smear test appointments, was diagnosed and successfully treated in 2011, aged 25, after abnormal cells were found.

Lisa said:

“When my first smear invitation came in, I didn’t think twice about it.  It detected abnormal cells and I was asked to come back for another smear six months later.  I was relieved when those results came back as normal.

“Three years later when I was invited for my next routine smear, abnormal cells were detected again and I was referred to the colposcopy clinic to have them removed.  The sample was tested and I was diagnosed with cervical cancer.

“The news was a big shock, I didn’t think I would be diagnosed with cancer, especially at such a young age.”

Ten days after her diagnosis, Lisa had the remaining cancerous cells removed and went for a smear test every six months for five years to monitor any changes, all of which came back normal.

Lisa added: “I was trying for a baby when I was diagnosed and it’s thanks to cervical screening that I’ve been able to go on and have my two beautiful children.  If I hadn’t gone for my smear test when I did, my story could’ve been very different.

“It’s really vital we get people talking about cervical screening again, because the smear test can be a life-saver.”

Christine Paterson, practice nurse, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said:

“No one looks forward to a smear appointment, but I want to reassure women that we’re trained to make the test go as smoothly as possible.

“I’ve done hundreds of smear tests and afterwards, most women – especially those that it’s their first time - are surprised by how quickly it’s all over.

“Of course, it can be nerve-wracking, but there’s no such thing as a silly question, that’s what we’re here for.

“So, don’t ignore your next smear invite, and if you missed your last smear test, contact your GP practice to find a time that suits you.”

For more information on cervical screening, visit getcheckedearly.org/cervical-cancer

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