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National charity launches awareness campaign in Northern Ireland after 1 in 4 fails to have cervical screening test

Mon, 21/01/2013 - 00:00

The UK’s only dedicated cervical cancer charity has launched a targeted campaign in Northern Ireland to mark national Cervical Cancer Prevention Week (20-26 January). The campaign focuses on increasing awareness of cervical cancer prevention as well as extending the charity’s support network to women who have been diagnosed with the disease.

Buses across Belfast – where cervical screening uptake is lowest - will carry adverts calling for women in the city to take up their screening invitation. January also sees the launch of the first ever face to face support group dedicated to women who have been through a cervical cancer diagnosis in Northern Ireland.

Every day in the UK nine women are diagnosed with cervical cancer and three lives are lost to the disease. Cervical screening can help reduce these numbers. Yet only 77.3% of women in Northern Ireland take up their cervical screening invitation and this drops to 75% for women in the Belfast Trust and South Eastern Trust areas. Within the Belfast Trust region alone this figure decreases even further to 72%.

Robert Music, Director of Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, the UK's only charity dedicated to supporting women and those close to them affected by cervical cancer and cervical abnormalities said: “The screening programme saves 5,000 lives each year in the UK yet almost a quarter of women in Northern Ireland are not being screened.

Through research commissioned by the charity we have found several barriers to cervical screening uptake including misinformation, confusion, a lack of convenient appointment times from GP surgeries (especially for working women) as well as embarrassment and fear of the procedure which all contribute to a lower uptake. This is why we are running adverts on the side of Belfast buses – both to stress the importance of cervical screenings but also to raise awareness of the charity as an information resource. We urge all women in Northern Ireland to make a cervical screening test a priority and get in contact with us if they have any concerns.”

Michelle Roe, who will be co-leading the support group based in Belfast, is also calling for women to keep up to date with their cervical screening tests after delaying her own for several years.

“I was overdue a cervical screening by about five years. It was only when I visited my doctor for a skin complaint that she reminded me that I should make an appointment for another test. At the time I was also experiencing a tiny amount of bleeding after sex as well as lower back pain – which I know now to be symptoms of cervical cancer. In April 2010 I was diagnosed with the disease – it was absolutely devastating.

“As the cancer had spread I had my ovaries and other lymph nodes removed as well as a hysterectomy. I then started a course of chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

“If I had known that cervical screenings were to detect abnormalities before they turned cancerous, and could potentially save your life, I would never have ignored the invite that fell through my letter box time and time again. I now suffer with bowel damage, lymphoedema, infertility and have dealt with going through the menopause in my thirties.”

Michelle has now been trained by Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust alongside Donna Hand to be group leaders of the Belfast support group.

Donna Hand, 30 from Newcastle said: “I’m starting this support group with Michelle so that women who have been through a diagnosis of cervical cancer can get face to face support, meet others affected in a confidential setting and share experiences.”

Robert Music said: “I know that this group will offer wonderful support to women affected by cervical cancer in this community. Women we have supported voiced a need for groups like this, and we are delighted that we can help extend our support network to Northern Ireland.

The first meeting will take place on Wednesday 20th February 2013 at 6.30pm at Lindsay House, 10 Callender Street, Belfast, BT1 5BN. Women can register at www.jostrust.org.uk

For more information and to arrange interviews contact Maddy Durrant, Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust on 020 7936 7498 or [email protected]

Notes for Editors

1. Jo’s Cervical Cancer trust – www.jostrust.org.uk - is the UK’s only dedicated cervical cancer charity offering support and information for those affected by cervical cancer and cervical abnormalities.
2. The charity’s new national helpline is on 0808 802 8000. It can be called by anyone within the UK and offers reliable information, support and signposting on a wide range of topics, including initial screening concerns and screening results, treatment, recovery and palliative care.
3. Around three women in the UK die each day from cervical cancer, with someone being diagnosed every three hours, facing an uncertain future. Over 300,000 women a year are told they may have a cervical abnormality that could require treatment.
4. It is estimated that the UK Cervical Screening Programmes save 5,000 lives every year and if HPV vaccination take up continues to reach at least 80% it is believed this could result in a 2/3rds reduction in incidence in women under 30 by 2025.
5. Cervical cancer is predominantly caused by the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) which can be caught as soon as you start having intimate relationships___.