Cervical Screening Awareness Week (9 - 15 June 2013)


Cervical Screening Awareness Week (CSAW) aims to highlight the importance of cervical screening and raise awareness about how screening can help prevent cervical cancer.

Cervical cancer is the most common cancer in women aged 35 and under, with 3,000 women in the UK being diagnosed and nearly 1,000 women dying from the disease every year.

In the UK, 20% of women do not attend their cervical screening, because of a lack of understanding about issues such as cervical screening, the causes of cervical abnormalities and cervical cancer and treatment.

CSAW is being led by Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust, a UK charity dedicated to women, and their families, affected by cervical cancer and cervical abnormalities. Through their daily work and CSAW they help women to understand why a smear test is so essential and they offer support when the results show cancer or abnormalities.

The facts about cervical cancer

In 99.7% of cases cervical cancer is caused by persistent infection with a virus called human papillomavirus (HPV) and is not thought to be hereditary. Anyone who is sexually active can contract HPV through contact with someone who already has the virus.

Around 4 out 5 people will be infected with HPV at some point in their lives, but many will never even know they have been infected. It is usually cleared by the body's immune system without the need for treatment and for the majority it will not result in cervical cancer.

What is cervical screening?

Cervical screening, also known as a smear test, is not a test to find cancer. It is to detect abnormalities (pre-cancer) at an early stage in the cells in the cervix. The process involves taking a sample of cells from your cervix which are then examined to detect abnormalities that might develop into cancer in the future. Screening can detect pre-cancerous or abnormal cells, which means there is a better chance of successfully treating those cells and prevent cancer from occurring.

Therefore regular smear tests provide you with a higher degree of protection against developing cervical cancer. The tests are free on the NHS. It is estimated that early detection and treatment through smear tests can prevent up to 75% of cervical cancers in the UK from developing. It is hoped that through CSAW women recognise the importance of attending their smear tests to help detect pre-cancer abnormalities in their cervix.

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