Drop-in clinics are being held in GP practices to encourage more women to have their cervical screening, which is also known as the smear test.
Thousands of women in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland are putting their lives at risk by not taking up the offer of cervical screening. The latest figures reveal that during 2018/19 more than 75,000 women in this area failed to attend the smear test, missing the opportunity to prevent cervical cancer from developing.
The first set of dates for the drop-in clinics are being announced to coincide with Cervical Cancer Prevention Week, which runs from 20th to 26th January. Women (or anyone with a cervix) across Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland who are due, or overdue, for their test are invited to attend their local drop-in clinic, where they can have the test done without needing to make an appointment.
Dr Paul Danaher, Leicester GP and clinical lead for cancer with Leicester City Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “We want to make it really easy for women to have their screening test; the drop-in clinics will be held at local GP practices over the next three months, many of them will take place on Saturdays and women can come along at a time that suits them. To encourage more people to participate, there will be a £100 prize draw for those who have their screening done at each of these clinics.
“The screening test is quick and simple. A nurse takes a sample of cells from the cervix (the neck of the womb) with a small brush. They send the sample to a laboratory to be checked for abnormalities. This makes sure abnormal cells are spotted before they develop into cancer, which means they are easier to treat.”
Cervical cancer affects around 3,000 women in the UK every year, making it the most common form of cancer for women under the age of 35. According to Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, 75% of these cases can be prevented through testing.
Screening at 20 year low
However, cervical screening is at a 20-year low, with one in four women in the UK not attending their test. Although there has been a slight increase in uptake locally in the past year, the figures are still below the national target, which is that 80% of women who are eligible should be having cervical screening.
Dr Danaher added: “During the very early stages, there are often not any symptoms and the best way for it to be detected is through screening. Prevention is the key to improving survival rates and cervical screening will save lives.
“Women aged 25 to 49 are invited for cervical screening every three years. After that, women are invited every five years until the age of 64. It’s important to be screened, even if you are not sexually active. If anyone thinks that they are overdue for a screening test, it’s important to contact their GP practice. They can either make an appointment to have the test done, or they can attend a local drop-in clinic if that is more convenient.”
The first eight drop-in clinics have already been arranged in Leicester City, with more to follow across Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland. Neighbouring GP practices are working together in groups, which means that patients may attend any of the clinics that cover their local area.