PHA Encourages Smear Test Uptake

Women are being encouraged to book in for a smear test this Cervical Cancer Prevention Week.

The Public Health Agency hopes to boost uptake of the diagnostic test as an average of 83 women continue to face cervical cancer diagnoses each year.

The quick test is offered to women aged between 25 and 64 in Northern Ireland and is designed to observe any changes to cervix cells that can often be an indication of cancer.

Around 21 people lost their life to the disease between 2013 and 2017, the PHA has warned.

Females of the appropriate age are advised to prioritise their cervical health and avail of the potentially life saving test.

Those aged between 25 and 49 are automatically called for screening every three years, while women aged between 50 and 64 will be invited every five years.

It's known, however, that many skip the test due to nerves or fears about having it done.

Dr Damien Bennett, Consultant in Public Health Medicine at the PHA, offered reassurances: "You may be worried about the actual process of having the test, as well as the results. These worries can put some women off attending at all.

"The test will only take a few minutes and is usually carried out by a female nurse.
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"This is one of the few cancers that is preventable. It is estimated that in a well-screened population, eight out of ten cervical cancers can be prevented. I would strongly encourage all women, particularly those who have just been invited for screening for the first time, to see it as a positive step in looking after your health."

Any females who haven't received an invitation for screening or who have any concerns are urged to speak to their GP.

As well as cervical screening, vaccines to prevent girls against cervical cancer are also available.

The human papillomavirus (HPV) jab is offered to all Year 9 school pupils, including boys. This helps protect against two types of the virus that cause most cases of cervical cancer (70%).

Dr Bennett continued: "We would recommend all girls and boys receive the vaccine when it is offered to them. Girls who have had the vaccine are still advised to attend for cervical screening when they are invited to do so.

"Going for a screening test, however, doesn't guarantee that you won't develop cancer in the future. A cancer could develop between screening tests, or there is a small chance that the test misses some changes to your cervix. Women of any age who are concerned about symptoms such as abnormal bleeding, or pain or discomfort in the lower pelvis, should seek advice from their GP, even if they attend regularly for screening."

An informative video on what takes place during a smear test is available online.


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