Missing a smear test is putting your life at risk
26 January 2016
This week is cervical cancer prevention week and the stark message from Southend University Hospital is that missing a smear test is putting your life at risk.
It is the most common form of cancer in women aged under 50 and
every three years, from the age of 25 onwards, women are advised to
have a smear test, rising to once every five years when they are
The test is performed at your GP surgery but those needing
further investigation are referred to Southend Hospital, under the
guidance of the colposcopy service. Mr Khalil Razvi, a consultant
gynaecological oncologist and lead for the colposcopy service at
Southend Hospital, said: "I would estimate that about a quarter of
those eligible women for screening do not attend and many of these
ladies are in a high risk group.
"The majority of cervical cancer patients we treat in Southend
Hospital have missed their smear tests in the past. Screening is
proven to work, is effective and if we catch abnormalities or
issues early enough then something can be done about it."
The uptake of smear test screening and cervical cancer awareness
arguably hit its peak in March 2009 in the wake of the death of
former Big Brother housemate, Jade Goody, but the numbers are now
According to Jo's cervical cancer trust, the only UK charity
dedicated to women and their families affected by cervical
cancer and cervical abnormalities, every day in the UK
eight women are diagnosed with cervical cancer and three women will
lose their lives to the disease.
Cervical cancer is largely preventable thanks to cervical
screening and the HPV (human papilloma virus) vaccination
programme. However uptake of cervical screening is now going down
year on year.
Mr Razvi said: "I know that there is the fear factor, especially
if someone has missed a three or five year appointment but it
should not be put off as early detection is also crucial in
increasing survival rates, so we'd recommend booking an appointment
at your GP surgery.
"If there is anything found and you are referred to Southend
Hospital we are very effective in testing and detecting what is
known as the pre-cancer stage. If these signs are caught early
enough then treatment can take place as an outpatient. If it is
left it risks becoming cancer which brings with it radical
treatment and its side effects."
But you couldn't be in better hands than at Southend Hospital,
as doctors at Southend are the first in Essex to be using a device
called DySIS - Dynamic Spectral Imaging System - to help
detect changes in the cervix and to help guide the best course of
treatment for women to prevent them developing full blown
The equipment is also helping to ensure women avoid invasive
treatment, which can in some cases, leave them with problems during
pregnancy such as increased risk of miscarriage and premature
birth. The device is expected to help around 800 women a year at
the hospital and has changed the philosophy of how women are
Around 1, 200 women attend the hospital each year to have a
colposcopy procedure, and of these women. Mr Razvi estimates that
50% have pre-cancerous changes. He believes a proportion of those
would go on to develop full blown cancer if they were left
Mr Razvi added: "Such leaps forward in technology help more
patients feel less anxious, and then less people who feel fearful
of smear tests at their GP or follow up appointments at the
hospital. You may think you can wait for your smear and HPV test,
but cancer won't wait for you."
For more details about cervical cancer visit: http://bit.ly/cervicalcancerUK