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Time to ditch smear fears

Time to ditch smear fears

Saturday 01 December 2018

Time to ditch smear fears


Smear fear? If the very words ‘cervical screening’ make you cringe, you’re far from alone – but soon that could all change.

The Health Department are working to swap feelings of embarrassment for empowerment as they launch a campaign targeting women who have never had the potentially lifesaving test.

In addition to making smear tests completely free at all GP surgeries earlier this year, the department is now using social media to reach women aged 25 or over and encourage them to book their first cervical screening, which can help detect signs and symptoms of potentially fatal cervical cancer so that it can be treated before its too late.

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Pictured: The new social media campaign is attempting to make young women feel empowered about booking their first smear test, rather than being worried about it.

Since smear tests were made free, almost 200 more women have booked in for a screening compared with this time last year, but it's hoped that this uptake will increase even more with the new campaign.

Head of Preventative Programmes at Health and Community Services, Dr Linda Diggle said: “We know that once women have had their first cervical screening test, they are more likely to attend when recalled in subsequent years, but we need to get them ‘on the system’.

“Not all young women know about the programme or come forward at 25 to have a smear. We hope our new social media campaign, aimed at younger women, will encourage them to book in and get this important test”, Dr Diggle explained.

It is hoped that the campaign will reassure young women who may be feeling anxious about their first cervical screening. Dr Diggle continued: “While having a smear test might be embarrassing, it’s a potentially life-saving test. Cervical cancer is the most common cancer in women aged 35 and under, often striking a woman in the prime of her life... Don’t think this is a cancer of older women – it isn’t. We want every young woman who attends to spread the word to her friends – it’s alright to be embarrassed, we all are – just be empowered to take charge of your own health and get your first test”.

After women have booked on for their first test, they will automatically be reminded to attend a screening every three years until she is 49 and then from age 50-64 a test is required every five years.

Dr Diggle said that the test only takes five minutes and that, if required, it’s possible for women to ask for a female doctor or nurse to carry it out when they book their appointment.

Dr Diggle also advised that women over 25 should attend regular screenings, even if they have been immunised against cervical cancer. She said: “If you had the HPV vaccine when you are younger, your chances of getting cervical cancer are much reduced but you should still attend for screening.”

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