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There has been widespread disruption to routine healthcare services throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. This disruption means that many women may now be overdue a cervical screening appointment.
This week is Cervical Screening Awareness Week which is run by Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust. This week aims to reduce confusion about human papillomavirus (HPV), de-mystify cervical screening results and highlight the importance of attending cervical screening appointments.
As medical negligence lawyers, we commonly see cases involving a delay or missed diagnosis of cervical cancer. We are blogging to raise awareness of the importance of attending routine cervical screening appointments.
HPV is a common virus that is usually transmitted through sexual contact. It is estimated that 8 in 10 men and women will get HPV in their lives.
It infects the skin and any moist membrane such as the cervix, the lining of the mouth and throat or the vagina, vulva and anus. In most cases, your immune system will fight the virus without it causing any problems or demonstrating any symptoms.
HPV is usually split into low-risk and high-risk. High-risk HPV is linked to some cancers but being diagnosed with this does not necessarily mean you will develop cancer.
A smear test or cervical screening appointment tests for high-risk HPV. A lab will test a sample of the cells taken during your smear test to check for HPV. The HPV virus can cause changes in your cervical cells which could develop into cervical cancer over time.
Cervical screening results are usually sent via post within 4 weeks after your test.
If you are diagnosed with high-risk HPV, your sample will be looked at for cell changes. If there are no changes to your cells, you will be invited back for a cervical screening appointment in 1 year to make sure the HPV has cleared.
If you are found to have high-risk HPV and cervical cell changes, you will be invited to colposcopy for further testing. Colposcopy is an examination to take a closer look at your cervix and is used to diagnose and treat cell changes. Many cell changes resolve without treatment but some may develop into cervical cancer. Colposcopy helps identify whether cell changes need treatment to stop this from happening.
Recent Cancer Research statistics show that there is a 70-73% uptake rate for cervical screening appointments in Great Britain. This means that approximately 30% of women who receive an invitation for a screening appointment do not attend.
Cancer Research estimates that at least 2,000 cervical cancer deaths are prevented in the UK each year through screening. These statistics reveal the importance of attending regular cervical screening appointments. Not everyone who is diagnosed with cervical cancer will display symptoms, which is why it is important to ensure that you undergo routine cervical screening appointments.
For more information on getting involved in the #CervicalScreeningAwarenessWeek campaign please visit Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust (https://www.jostrust.org.uk/get-involved/campaign/cervical-screening-awareness-week).
If you would like any further information or advice about the topic discussed in this blog, please contact our Medical Negligence and Personal Injury team at firstname.lastname@example.org
Terrence Donovan is the Head of the Medical Negligence and Personal Injury Department. He has a national reputation, and is one of the most respected and senior solicitors in the field.
Lara Francioni is a Paralegal in the Medical Negligence and Personal Injury team. Lara assists with aspects of medical negligence and personal injury claims, including birth injury, brain injury, fatal accidents and road traffic accident claims.
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