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Cervical Cancer Prevention Week - 22nd to 28th January 2024

 

Bake Off star Laura Adlington and This Morning’s Dr Arif fronts our latest campaign to debunk common myths about cervical cancer and screening

       ● Misconceptions about the link between sex and cervical cancer often limits screening attendance in younger age groups 

       ● Campaign ads will run across Tinder to encourage daters to swipe right to find out more

Great British Bake Off star Laura Adlington is fronting our new cervical cancer campaign alongside This Morning’s Dr Arif to encourage younger people to attend an NHS cervical screening appointment when invited. Cervical screening is a free NHS health test that is offered to women and all people with a cervix between the ages of 25 to 64. It helps prevent cervical cancer by checking for human papillomavirus (HPV) which can be passed through sexual contact. Currently, only 66% of 25 to 49-year-olds attend screening, with the attendance significantly higher for 50 to 64-year-olds at 74%.

The campaign will coincide with Cervical Cancer Prevention Week and will see Laura Adlington and Dr Arif star in a series of video adverts discussing the link between sex and cervical cancer and debunking the common misconceptions about cervical screening. The ads will be streamed on popular dating sites such as Tinder and across social platforms such as TikTok and Instagram.

Jo's has partnered with the four NHS Cancer Alliances in London to launch this campaign during Cervical Cancer Prevention Week – 22nd to 28th January 2024. The South East London Cancer Alliance, North Central London Cancer Alliance, North East London Cancer Alliance and RM Partners are all responsible for improving cancer diagnosis, care and treatment for patients in London. 

Here are just a few of the questions that we get asked about HPV, cervical screening and cervical cancer.  More information about these topics can be found in our Information Pages.  You can also call the Jo's Helpline on 0808 802 8000.  You can find the opening times here.

 

I am a virgin. Do I still need a cervical smear?

Yes, doctors recommend routine cervical screening, regardless of your sexual history. In the UK, HPV primary screening is used and tests for the presence of high-risk human papillomavirus (HPV) which can cause cervical cell changes that might develop into cervical cancer.  

You can read more about how HPV is transmitted here. 

 

In my religion I don’t have sex outside marriage, do I still need to attend my screening?

Yes, doctors recommend routine cervical screening, regardless of your sexual history. HPV is transmitted through skin-to-skin contact. For HPV that affects the genitals, this includes vaginal, anal and oral sex. You can also get HPV through touching in the genital area and sharing sex toys.

You can read more about how HPV is transmitted here.

 

Will a man do my smear or can I request a woman/female?

Cervical screening is usually carried out by your GP or practice nurse. You can request a female clinician at the time of booking if preferred. You can also ask for a chaperone to stay in the room, or you can bring someone you trust to be with you.

You can read more about what to expect at a cervical screening appointment here

 

I have only ever had one sexual partner, so why do I need to attend a screening?

Even If you’ve only had one sexual partner, you can get HPV the first time you are sexually active. HPV is a common virus and is spread by skin-to-skin contact. 8 in 10 of us will have HPV at some point in our lives. Having HPV isn’t a sign that someone has had sexual contact with a lot of people. It also doesn’t mean someone has been unfaithful to a partner. The risk of getting HPV increases with the number of sexual partners someone has, or the number of sexual partners their partner has had. But that is just because there is a higher chance of being exposed to HPV.

You can read more about HPV here

 

Can I have a smear on my period?

Sample taker guidance recommends that cervical screening should be avoided during a patient’s period, because the blood can make it more difficult to get an adequate sample. But it can happen at any other point in the menstrual cycle. If someone does not have periods for any reason, they can have screening at any time. 

You can find out more information about cervical screening here

 

My last smear was really painful, so can I miss my next one? Or what can I do make it less painful?

There are many things you can do if you find cervical screening painful. Here are some tips:

  1. Remember, you’re in complete control during your cervical screening appointment - if it hurts at any point, ask your nurse or doctor to stop.
  2. If it’s your first experience of cervical screening, you’re feeling nervous or have had bad experiences in the past, tell your nurse or doctor. They can talk it through with you and suggest things that may help.
  3. Ask for a smaller speculum. Speculums come in different sizes, so you can ask your nurse for a smaller size.
  4. If you have vaginal dryness, you can ask the nurse to use a lubricant. This can make inserting the speculum easier.
  5. Ask the nurse about breathing exercises that may help with the pain or look them up before you go to the appointment.
  6. You might find that different positions (like lying on your side) can reduce pain and make you feel more comfortable.
  7. Listen to a podcast or some music to relax to help distract you while the test is being done.

You can find more information and tips here. 

 

My smear said I have HPV — what does that mean? Is it an STI?

HPV stands for human papillomavirus. HPV is very common and around 80% of us will have the virus at some point in our lives. People often won’t even know they have it — it usually goes away without causing any problems. High-risk HPV can cause cervical cell changes and is passed on through vaginal, anal and oral sex. You can also get HPV through touching in the genital area and sharing sex toys. Using barrier protection helps reduce your chance of getting HPV. This includes using condoms or dental dams (a thin plastic square used to cover the anus or vagina during oral sex). However, these won’t completely get rid of the risk. This is because HPV lives on the skin in and around the whole genital area. Condoms and dental dams only cover some of your genitals.

You can read more about HPV here

 

I do not have any symptoms so do I need to go to cervical screening?

Cervical screening is a free health test available on the NHS as part of the national cervical screening programme. It helps prevent cervical cancer by checking for a virus called high-risk HPV and cervical cell changes. It is not a test for cancer. Most of the time, early cervical cancer has no symptoms, so please do make sure you attend when you are invited. It helps to protect you. Symptoms of cervical cancer include vaginal bleeding that's unusual for you including bleeding during or after sex, between your periods or after menopause, changes to vaginal discharge, pain during sex, pain in lower back or between your hip bones. If you have any of these symptoms, speak to your GP about it — don’t wait until your next cervical screening appointment.    

You can read more about symptoms of cervical cancer here

 

I’ve had a baby, didn't they do a smear when I gave birth or during my antenatal appointments?

You won’t usually need to attend cervical screening if you’re pregnant or could be pregnant, until at least 12 weeks after you’ve given birth. This is because pregnancy can make it harder to get clear results. You will usually be advised by your GP or clinic to reschedule the test for a date around 12 weeks after your baby is born.

I missed my HPV vaccination in school, can I still get a vaccination?

If you think you missed the HPV vaccine when it was offered to you at school, contact your GP. You might be able to get it for free up to your 25th birthday. Some people may be able to have the HPV vaccine for free after age 25, including: men who have sex with men, people living with HIV, sex workers and some trans people. You can also pay to have the vaccine at some pharmacies, travel clinics and other health centres. Reach out to your GP for more information.

You can find out more about HPV vaccination here.

 

I’m over 64, can I still be screened?

The cervical screening programme is available to women and people with a cervix aged 25 to 64 in England.You will usually stop being invited for screening once you turn 65 because it’s very unlikely that you’ll get cervical cancer. However, you’ll still get invites if you’re being followed up for high-risk HPV or cell changes.If you have symptoms of cervical cancer, contact your GP surgery to arrange an appointment to discuss this further with your GP.

You can find out more information for women over the age of 65 here

 

I’ve received the HPV vaccination already; do I still need to be screened?

The HPV vaccine does not protect you against all types of HPV, so cervical screening is still important even if you have had the vaccine. Going for cervical screening when invited can help find high-risk HPV or changes to cervical cells (abnormal cells) early before they develop. 

You can find out more about the HPV vaccine here.

 

Can cervical cancer be prevented?

Although the average lifetime risk of cervical cancer is already low, there are things you can do that may lower it even more. This includes attending your cervical screening appointment when invited, having the HPV vaccination, not smoking and having safe sex (although this cannot completely protect you from getting HPV).

You can find out more about the risk and causes of cervical cancer here.

 

If I have HPV, will I develop cervical cancer at some point in life?

Although most cervical cancer is caused by high-risk HPV, having the virus doesn’t mean you will get cell changes or cancer. About 9 in 10 people get rid of HPV within 2 years without it causing any problems. This includes high-risk HPV types.

You can read more about HPV here.

 

Is cervical screening very painful?

For a lot of people, cervical screening can be uncomfortable or a bit embarrassing. However we know that for some, it can be painful. There can be many reasons for this, such as particular health conditions. If cervical screening is painful for you, there are many things you can do to make it less so – talk to your clinician about what these things could be. 

You can read more about what to expect at a cervical screening appointment here

 

 

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