Cornwall cervical screeningWomen with learning disabilities in Cornwall are being targeted to protect themselves against cervical cancer by keeping their screening appointment.

During Cervical Screening Awareness Week, which runs from June 9 to 15, the NHS in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly is highlighting the importance of screening.

This is the first time the region’s NHS has specifically targeted this group as only 10-35% of women with learning disabilities have been screened for cervical cancer, compared with 80% of women in the general population.

Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer to affect women under the age of 35. Nearly 1,000 women in England die each year from it and many of those who develop the disease had not been screened regularly.

Importance of cervical screening

Dr Tamsyn Anderson, a GP from Newquay and NHS Kernow Governing Body member, said that some women may not always understand the importance of screening. “Cervical cancer is a preventable disease and regular screening allows abnormalities to be picked up and treated before they become cancerous.

“Some of the reasons why women may not attend include a lack of understanding about the procedure; a fear of embarrassment and/or pain and a lack of awareness about the benefits of screening.

“This campaign will let women and their carers know that screening is done in private by experienced professionals who carry out this procedure every day. You can also ask for it to be done by a woman.

“I would encourage all women who have been invited, but have not attended their screen, to make an appointment. It’s quick and easy and could save your life, because the sooner changes are found, the sooner treatment can begin.”

The NHS offers cervical screening free to all women aged 25 to 64. Women aged 25 to 49 are invited for a test every three years and women aged 50 to 64 are invited every five years. Cervical screening can prevent around 75% of cancer cases in women who attend regularly.