Cervical Screening Awareness week: Why workplaces should encourage screenings

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Health Assured team

16 June 2021

The 14th to 20th is Cervical Screening Awareness 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 physical and mental health leads to absenteeism which currently costs UK employers around £21 billion each 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.

With 26% of women admitting to being more likely to attend cervical screenings if their company was more flexible; it is up to workplaces to ensure the proper support is in place to protect the overall wellbeing of their employees.

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 a 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.

How can screenings be made as easy as possible?

While this can sound intimidating, it’s a very quick process, and much less daunting than it seems. Here are some things that can be done to make the process a little easier:

  • Wear something you can leave on during the test such as a dress, skirt, or long jumper.
  • Do not worry about how will be perceived. Doctors and nurses have done this procedure countless times and are not there to judge.
  • Bring someone with you for support.
  • Request that the nurse to use a smaller speculum.
  • Ask the nurse about lying in a different position – such as on your side with your knees pulled up to your chest.
  • Listen to music or read something during the test to occupy your mind.

 

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