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As the national Cervical Cancer Prevention Week begins, figures show that older women are dismissing the importance of the smear test.
In support of the European Cervical Cancer Association’s awareness campaign, a charity has released figures highlighting the misconceptions women have of the disease, and how they are neglecting important preventative measures in the fight against a cancer which affects more women than is commonly perceived.
The Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust - the only UK charity dedicated to supporting those affected and their families - look to provide comprehensive information to all women. This year’s campaign sees a particular focus on single women over 50, many of whom – a poll by the trust has found - did not see cervical screening (or smear tests) as a necessary precaution and considered the cancer as a young woman’s disease. Also, with the belief that it is caused by having multiple sexual partners, and therefore, the belief that such measures were not relevant to them, these results have emphasized the need to better inform women on the facts of cervical cancer, and to encourage the importance of regular testing.
It is recommended that all women aged 25-64 should take up the offer of cervical screening when it is advised, in order to check for any abnormalities. Around three quarters of cases can be prevented by early detection and treatment. The Health Minister, Simon Burns, encourages the screening, acknowledging that “it could save their lives.”
A preventative vaccination - the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) Vaccine - caused controversy when it was introduced in 2008. It was aimed at girls aged 12 to 13, and then offered as a catch-up programme for 14 to 17 year olds, who would be injected three times over a six to 12 month period. Reported adverse side effects have led parents to questions whether the vaccine is suitable, and the issue is under review.