Regular cervical screening is the most important factor in protecting women against cervical cancer. And figures show that women in East Dunbartonshire are among the highest attendees to coming forward for screening across NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde.
Eighty three per cent of women in East Dunbartonshire were screened for cervical cancer last year but the health board is keen to highlight the importance of regular screening via a "smear test" to protect women against this disease.
Consultant in Public Health Medicine Emilia Crighton said: "While the women of East Dunbartonshire should be congratulated for the second year in a row exceeding the national target for screening which is 80 per cent, it is still worrying that 17% per cent of women are not taking advantage of this service which may just save their life."
After breast cancer, cervical cancer is the second most common cancer in women aged 35 and under. However cervical cancer is a preventable disease and regular screening prevents eight out of 10 cancers developing. All women in Scotland aged 20 to 60 are offered cervical screening tests every three years and screening saves around 5000 lives per year.
Emilia explained: "Regular cervical screening is the best way for women to protect themselves against cervical cancer. The test only takes five minutes but could save your life so we urge all women to take up the offer of screening."
The screening itself tests for any early changes in the cells caused by a strain of virus called human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is an extremely common virus – more than 100 strains have been identified so far – and they can affect different parts of the body. However, the high-risk HPV types can, in some cases, cause the development of cervical cancer. The HPV infection seems to cause changes to the cells of the cervix creating abnormalities that can over the years develop into cancer. That is why regular screening is so important, so any changes can be spotted quickly and any potential problems dealt with.
It is estimated that around 80% of people of reproductive age will be infected with a HPV virus at some point in their lives. These are transmitted through skin to skin contact. It means that it’s possible for anyone to contract HPV through contact with someone who already has the virus.
However, Emilia is keen to point out that, while HPV infection is common it is rare that it goes on to become cervical cancer. "Most women are infected with HPV at some point in their lives but will probably never know they have been infected. Like other viral infections such as a cold, HPV is usually cleared by the body’s immune system without the need for other treatment.
"There are usually no symptoms with an HPV infection and sometimes no symptoms with early stage cervical cancer, so the only way to really check and make sure everything is OK is to attend your cervical screening test when called every three years.
"Cervical screening saves lives and all women should attend when called for their smear test. With early detection and treatment up to 75% of cervical cancers can be stopped from developing."
Notes to editors
Every year in the UK, more than 2800 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer and nearly 1000 women die from the disease. That’s three women every day.
More information on cervical screening available from NHS 24, visit: www.nhs24.com/cervicalscreening or contact the NHS Helpline tel: 0800 22 44 88
You can also find information about cervical cancer and the cervical screening programme from the NHS inform website at www.nhsinform.co.uk
For further information either tel: 0141 201 4429 or email: [email protected]