Cervical Cancer Prevention Week 2023

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Health Assured team

24 January 2023

The 23rd to the 29th of January is Cervical Cancer Prevention Week. This is an especially vital awareness week as it serves to highlight a topic which a lot of people either gloss over or feel uncomfortable discussing – especially within the workplace.


Why should workplaces promote cervical screenings?

Mental health and physical health go hand-in-hand, with one more often than not always affecting the other. Poor mental health at work cost UK employers an estimated £56 billion per year.

Encouraging and openly talking about topics like cervical screenings serves to protect your employees' physical and mental health by ensuring they keep physically healthy, as well as reducing the anxiety that comes from misinformation or delaying health checks.

Research finds that 80% of women who work full-time have been unable to get a convenient cervical screening appointment, with 15% delaying their screenings because they felt uncomfortable taking time off work. 

Workplaces can encourage their employees to attend cervical screenings by advocating for open discussions surrounding the topic and sharing reliable information to help remove the stigma. Offering flexible working time for appointments will also allow employees to feel comfortable attending their screening if they cannot get an out-of-work-hours appointment.


What is cervical cancer?

Cervical cancer is cancer affecting the cervix. This is the entrance to the womb, located inside the vagina. It mainly affects sexually active women aged between 30-45, though any woman can suffer from it.

It’s mainly caused by certain types of HPV (or human papillomavirus.) This is a very common sexually transmitted disease—in fact, at least half of all sexually active people will have HPV at some point in their life. This doesn’t mean every woman with HPV will develop cervical cancer, though.

Visit the NHS website to find out more information about the symptoms of cervical cancer.


What is a cervical cancer screening?

During a cervical screening (or smear test), a small sample of cells is taken from the cervix to test for HPV. The test itself usually takes less than 5 minutes, making the whole appointment around 10 minutes long. The screening is usually carried out by a female nurse or doctor.

Before starting, they should explain what will happen during the test and answer any questions you have. The process goes like this:

  • You'll need to undress, behind a screen, from the waist down. You'll be given a sheet to put over you.
  • The nurse will ask you to lie back on a bed, usually with your legs bent, feet together and knees apart. Sometimes you may need to change position during the test.
  • They'll gently put a smooth, tube-shaped tool (a speculum) into your vagina. A small amount of lubricant may be used.
  • The nurse will open the speculum so they can see your cervix.
  • Using a soft brush, they'll take a small sample of cells from your cervix.
  • The nurse will close and remove the speculum and leave you to get dressed.


Who is eligible for screening?

Cervical screening invitations are sent to eligible women who are registered with a GP six months before their 25th birthday. Screening invitations will then be sent every three years up to age 49. People aged 50 to 64 will receive invitations every 5 years.

Trans men (assigned female at birth) who have a cervix and are registered as male with their GP will not receive automatic invitations but are still entitled to screenings. More information on cervical screening for trans men can be found on the NHS website.


What to do if you’re feeling nervous about your screening

It’s natural to feel nervous about your screening. But don’t let that discourage you from putting it off or avoiding the appointment altogether. The screening process is ultimately a safe way to prevent cervical cancer from developing. And although it might feel uncomfortable for a few short seconds—it’s worth it in the long run. If you’re feeling nervous about your screening, these calming techniques can help:

• Focus on your in-breath and your out-breath.
• Focus on five things you can see, four things you can hear, three things you can feel, two things you can smell and one thing you can taste.
• Relax your body bit by bit. Focus on relaxing the muscles in your face, arms, legs and back.
• Listen to music.

Health Assured are here to support you. If you've been affected by cervical cancer, our helpline is available 24/7,365.

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