#womenshealthmonth Cervical Cancer Awareness

Smear test! It may sound like your worst nightmare but it’s still the best way to check whether you have cervical cancer which can go unnoticed without it. These days it’s known as a ‘cervical cytology test’ and it’s available through your surgery, carried out by a practice nurse. A simple painless procedure, quick, no fuss, and reassurance for five years.

In Southampton, 65% of women under 64 take up the test on a regular basis, and this rises to 70% for those over 65. But there are a number who will avoid it for various reasons – fear, embarrassment, cultural or language reasons.

They might even think they no longer have to worry as a new vaccine in available. However, the vaccine is only available to girls from 11 years old and only since 2008. So that means all women over the age of 30 still carry a risk.

Pam Campbell, a nurse supporting people experiencing homelessness who are diagnosed with cancer, works with Right By You, a new innovative project run by Solent NHS Trust.

It reaches out to the more vulnerable groups of women in Southampton.

Pam aims to help bridge the gap that sometimes exists between hospital services and the real life experiences of women on the margins. She has seen many instances of cervical cancer diagnosed in the late stages, a situation that would have been avoided had a smear test been carried out sooner.

Pam said “Practice nurses have seen it all. They don’t make judgements. They just want to see every woman in Southampton get a smear test, to avoid the suffering that can follow.”

Her advice is “Make an appointment with your surgery practice nurse. The simple things you might notice about your body are important. If you’re worried and can’t face a test, then go online and do an e-consult with your GP. Do it soon, the earlier the better!”

Hannah, one of Pam’s patients who did contract cervical cancer was interviewed for ITV Meridian.

Go to https://www.itv.com/news/meridian/2022-05-05/terminal-cancer-patient-pleads-for-women-to-have-cervical-screening to hear more about her story.