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Every day in the UK, nine women are diagnosed with cervical cancer and nearly three die of the disease. Cervical cancer is largely preventable thanks to the NHS screening programme and HPV vaccination programme. Across England 77.8 per cent of women attend screening, yet for women with learning disabilities, studies have shown that nationally, uptake drops significantly to between 13 to 25 per cent. To mark the start of Cervical Screening Awareness Week (15-21 June) Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust aims to raise awareness of this inequality and has produced two resources to help women with learning disabilities to make informed choices about their health.
Approximately two per cent of England's population have a learning disability with the number of people with learning disabilities projected to rise to between 10 and 14 per cent by 2020. Yet, people with learning disabilities are 45 per cent less likely to be screened for cancer compared to their counterparts without learning disabilities.
In order to help women with learning disabilities make informed choices Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust has produced a new 20 page EasyRead guide about cervical screening (smear tests). The EasyRead guide entitled: 'Having a smear test. What is it about?' has been produced using input from women with learning disabilities, expert peer reviewers and with the help of specialised EasyRead experts Inspired Services Publishing. New clip art has been created which helps illustrate how smear tests are conducted and the type of instruments used during the test. The guide also covers some of the barriers that prevent women with learning disabilities from attending their invitation to screening.
In addition to the EasyRead guide women can also access 'The Smear Test Film' a health education film resource for women eligible for cervical screening who have mild and moderate learning disabilities. Made by Public Health England in association with Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust and launched in January 2015.
'The Smear Test Film' has been made in conjunction with women who have learning disabilities who helped both script, illustrate and star in the film. It aims to help women make an informed decision about whether to take up their cervical screening invitation as well as equip carers with relevant information on cervical screening and its role in preventing cervical cancer.
Robert Music, Chief Executive of Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust, commented: "Cervical screening is a potentially life saving test so it is vital that everyone is able to access the programme regardless of their background. We hope that with these resources we are able to reach this group of women, improve their understanding of cervical screening and encourage them to attend when invited
"We're calling on health care professionals and carers that work with women with learning disabilities to use the resources to better inform women about their rights and make a choice whether to attend their test."
Professor Julietta Patnick, Director of the NHS Cancer Screening Programmes, managed by Public Health England, said: "We know that women with learning disabilities are much less likely to attend for cervical screening than the general population.
"There are many ways in which women with learning disabilities can be helped to make an informed choice about attending for their cervical screening test.
"I hope that by watching the Smear Test film and using the EasyRead, many more women with learning disabilities will understand what the test is, what is involved and why it is so important to have regular cervical screening in the prevention of cervical cancer."
'Having a smear test. What is it about?’ can be ordered from the Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust website and 'The Smear Test Film' is also available from the Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust website or by calling 020 7250 8311.
For further information, comment or case studies please contact:
Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust:
Press office on 020 7250 8311 / 07772 290 064 or email [email protected]
Notes to editors
About Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust
Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust is the UK's only charity dedicated to supporting women and their families affected by cervical cancer and cervical abnormalities. The charity also campaigns to increase awareness of the disease and bring down numbers diagnosed through promoting the cervical screening and HPV vaccination programmes. The charity's national helpline is on 0808 802 8000.
About Cervical Screening Awareness Week
Cervical Screening Awareness Week (CSAW) is a UK-wide initiative led by Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust. The week runs from 15-21 June 2015 and aims to highlight the importance of cervical screening (smear) and how attending a screening invitation can help to prevent cervical cancer.
For more information on the week visit: http://www.jostrust.org.uk/get-involved/campaign/cervical-screening-awareness-week
 Biswas M, Whalley H, Foster J, Friedman E and Deacon R. Women with learning disability and uptake of screening: audit of screening uptake before and after one to one counselling. J Pub Health. 2005. 27( 4), pp. 344-347. Available from: http://jpubhealth.oxfordjournals.org/content/27/4/344.full?sid=c6a2ad4c-ddb6-4660-88a1-13eb2dedc8ba
 Pearson V, Davis C., Ruoff C., Dyer J., Only one quarter of women with learning disability in Exeter have cervical screening. BMJ. 1998. 316 (1979), http://www.bmj.com/content/316/7149/1979.1
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