The NHS is encouraging the public to attend cervical screening appointments if they receive a booking invitation.
Routine cervical screening appointments are continuing to take place during the Covid-19 pandemic, with NHS Midlands and Lancashire encouraging all people with a cervix to still attend.
What is cervical screening?
Cervical screening is a free health test that can help to prevent cervical cancer. The procedure checks for a virus called human papillomavirus (HPV) and, if you have HPV, cervical cell changes (abnormal cells).
Tricia Spedding, Deputy Head of Public Health for NHS England, said: “Cervical screening is not a test for cancer, it is a test to help prevent cancer. It is one of the best ways to protect yourself from cervical cancer, but around 30 per cent of people do not make an appointment when they are offered one.
"You can request a female nurse or doctor. It may be a little uncomfortable but only takes a few minutes and could save your life. Anyone with concerns or questions should contact their GP practice.”
Dianne Draper, Screening and Immunisation Lead for NHS England, explains that measures have been put in place for those who attend a cervical screening appointment during the pandemic.
Ms Draper said: “GP practices and other screening providers have put increased infection control measures in place to ensure screening appointments continue. This includes the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) for the safety of patients and staff."
However, Ms Draper adds: “If you are self-isolating, you should not book an appointment until you have finished isolating. If you have concerns or are shielding, please contact your GP practice to discuss your situation. The NHS is here for you.”
How often do I need a cervical screening appointment and how do I book?
Those aged 25 to 49 are screened every three years and those aged 50 to 64 every five years. People aged over 65 are only screened if one of their last three tests was abnormal.
“All women and people with a cervix between the ages of 25 and 64 should go for regular cervical screening,” says the NHS.
If you are due for cervical screening, you will get a letter in the post inviting you to make an appointment.
Your letter will tell you where you can go for cervical screening and how to book. Most cervical screening is done in a GP surgery by a female nurse or doctor. You can call your GP surgery to book an appointment with them or you might be able to book the appointment online.
Dr Neil Smith, GP and Primary Care Director for Lancashire and South Cumbria Cancer Alliance, said: “Having cervical screening is one of the most important things you can do to protect yourself from the risk of cervical cancer. Cervical screening saves lives by finding early abnormalities that can be treated even before cancer begins.”