Women with learning difficulties urged to have cancer screening

Commissioners in East Berkshire are urging women with learning difficulties to have a cervical screening test after research showed that many are not taking up the free invite.

The message comes during Cervical Cancer awareness week which began yesterday (12/6). The campaign aims to raise awareness of the importance of cervical screening and its role in preventing cancer, as well as encouraging women with learning difficulties to be tested when invited.

Every day, nine women in the UK are diagnosed with cervical cancer and three lose their lives to the disease. While it is the most common cancer for women under 35, it is largely preventable thanks to cervical screening and the HPV vaccination programme.

In England, fewer than one in three women with a learning disability who are eligible for the test received cervical cancer screening. By contrast, three in four without a learning disability received the test.

Dr Anant Sachdev, local GP and the Clinical Commissioning Lead for Cancer across east Berkshire said: “The proportion of women with learning difficulties who get the test is very low compared to the wider population and the NHS is working to combat this.

“It is really important for women with learning difficulties to attend cervical screening as it can detect pre-cancer abnormalities, which, if left untreated, may develop into cancer. We are also asking their friends and loved ones to encourage and support them to get the test done.

He added :”So many lives may potentially be saved with this simple test, and many women will not undergo treatments that could have been avoided.”

The three Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) in east Berkshire – Slough; Windsor, Maidenhead and Ascot; and Bracknell and Ascot – have signed up to the Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust ‘Time to Test’ pledge demonstrating commitment to raising awareness of cervical cancer prevention in the workplace and ensuring female employees can access cervical screening.

Notes to editors:

Throughout the week, east Berkshire CCGs will be using social media channels to raise awareness of the facts about cervical cancer and the screening programme including reaching out to women who are entering the screening programme for the first time.

Cervical screening is offered to all women aged 25 to 64, with women aged 25 to 49 screened three yearly and women aged 50 to 64 screened every five years.

The HPV vaccine is given to girls at school when they reach 12 and 13. It is still important for women who have been vaccinated to practise safe sex and to take up screening when they reach 25 (the vaccination was introduced in the 1990s)

The NHS screening programme aims to screen 80% of the target population, to offer the greatest protection against cervical cancer. In the south east of England coverage last year was on average 74.3%.