Cervical Cancer Prevention Week

This week is Cervical Cancer Prevention Week and trust staff have been hard at work in the community spreading the word about the importance of regular screening.

The Bromley Community Learning Disability Team, met clients at the Cotmandene Crescent community centre in St. Paul’s Cray, Bromley. The team have been busy displaying health promotion stands and providing health education workshops in local day centres, explaining the need for cervical screening all this week. Its target group is women with learning disabilities.

Stella Haddow-Mendes, Senior Nurse, with the Community Learning Disability Team said: “People with learning disabilities run the same risks from cervical cancer as the general population. However, the cervical screening uptake is very low and we have been liaising with day centres to try and get the message across about the importance of screening.

“We’ve seen about 50 women this week in a number of day centres, often with their carers. As well as stands, workshops and literature we have been on hand to offer advice too. We make information accessible, in clear concise English. We use pictures and anatomical models to get the message across to clients. Sometimes we even use the past experiences of clients themselves.

“We explain how important it is that clients look after themselves properly and what the risks are if they do not. We supply them with evidence based, researched material.”

In 2010 20% of women in the general population did not take up their invitation for cervical screening. That figure is even worse within the learning disabilities community. Cervical cancer is preventable through regular screening.

Women aged between 25 and 49 are invited to have a cervical smear test at their GP surgery every three years, and for women aged between 50 and 64 years old, every five years. Cervical cancer can have no symptoms in its early stages. The most common symptom is abnormal vaginal bleeding.

Since September 2008 there has been a national programme to vaccinate girls aged 12 to 13 against the human papilloma virus (HPV). This age group is usually in year eight at schools in England. From September 2008 a three-year "catch-up" campaign was started, to offer the HPV vaccine, also known as the cervical cancer jab, to older girls aged 14-17.

The programme is delivered largely through secondary schools and consists of three injections that should ideally be given over a period of six months, although they can all be given over a period of 12 months.

Published on 27th January 2012