The number of people getting cervical screenings in the UK has fallen to a 20-year low. To combat this the government has launched its first national cervical screening campaign.
Public Health England (PHE) today launched the new national campaign called ‘Cervical Screening Saves Lives’. PHE has teamed up with The National LGB&T Partnership and LGBT Foundation to also tackle the low rates of screening among LBT people.
About 2,600 people are diagnosed with cervical cancer in England each year. Around 690 of those will die from the disease – that’s two deaths every day.
Cervical cancer is one of the most preventable cancers
If all people with a cervix attended screening regularly, 83% of cervical cancer cases could be prevented. But despite this, screening is at a 20-year low. One in four eligible people in the UK are not attending their test.
All people with a cervix between aged 25 – 64 need to have a regular cervical screening. That includes lesbian and bisexual women and trans men who have not had a hysterectomy.
‘There can be confusion or misinformation amongst LBT communities around the need to attend cervical screnning and it’s costing lives,’ said Emma Meehan, assistant director Public Affairs at LGBT Foundation.
Lesbian and bisexual women are up to 10 times less likely to have had a cervical screening test in the past three years than heterosexual women.
Human papillomavirus (HPV)
PHE said there was a misconception that lesbian and bisexual women don’t need to attend screening if they don’t have sex with men.
But the human papillomavirus (HPV), which causes the vast majority of cases of cervical cancer, is a common virus that is passed on through body fluids. Ican be transmitted through oral sex, transferring vaginal fluids on hands and fingers, or sharing sex toys.
‘It’s so important all people with a cervix understand they are at risk of cervical cancer and eligible for screening so we’d urge anyone to take up their invitation when received,’ Meehan said.
‘Anyone concerned if they haven’t received a letter should talk to a healthcare professional.’
The new campaign encouraged trans men to get screened and in particular.
The campaign also reminded trans men aged 25 to 64 who are registered with a GP as male, that they are eligible for screening if they still have a cervix but they won’t be invited for cervical screening.
For those taking long-term testosterone it is advised that they speak to the nurse taking the test as they can help find ways to screening more comfortable.
Don’t be afraid to get tested or of cancer
Cervical Screening Saves Lives provides practical information about how to make the test more comfortable and gives reassurance to people, who may be fearful of finding out they have cancer, that screening is not a test for cancer.
Regular screening, which only takes a few minutes, can help stop cervical cancer before it starts. The test identifies potentially harmful cells before they become cancerous and ensures people get the right treatment as soon as possible.
‘The decline in numbers getting screened for cervical cancer is a major concern as it means millions of people are missing out on a potentially life-saving test, and this is particularly true in the LBT community,’ said Professor Anne Mackie, director of Screening Programmes at PHE.
‘Two people die every day in England from cervical cancer and yet it is one of the most preventable cancers if caught early.
‘We want to see a future generation free of cervical cancer but we will only achieve our vision if everyone takes up their screening invitations. This is a simple test which takes just five minutes and could save your life.
‘It’s just not worth ignoring.’