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New cervical screening campaign aims to empower women and save lives

'Don't ignore your invitation for a smear test – it could save your life'.

That's the message from GPs in Southwark, as a new campaign is launched to encourage women in the borough to attend cervical screening.

Cervical cancer screening, also known as a smear test, is a free health test that checks for cell changes in a person's cervix caused by high-risk human papillomavirus (HPV).

The test, which only lasts a few minutes, is not a test for cancer; it checks the health of the cervix and can prevent potentially harmful cells from developing – helping to stop cancer before it starts.

It's estimated that cervical screening saves around 5,000 lives each year; however, screening is at a 20-year low, with around one in three women in Southwark not attending their test.

Public Health England's (PHE) Cervical Screening Saves Lives campaign encourages women and people with a cervix to respond to their screening invitation letters and, if they have missed previous opportunities to attend an appointment, book a free test at their GP surgery.

The PHE campaign also wants women to be empowered with the knowledge about what happens at their screening and how they can make the test more comfortable.

Everyone aged 25 to 64 with a cervix, which is most women and many trans people, are invited to attend cervical screening every three or five years depending on their age.

You can make the test more comfortable by:

  • Talking to your nurse – they are trained and experienced in how to support you
  • Wearing a loose skirt or dress – this can help you feel more covered during your appointment
  • Taking a friend or family member with you if it helps you feel more relaxed.

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