Knowledge gap in Leeds over virus causing cancer

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It’s responsible for most cases of cervical cancer.

Yet a new survey has found that half of women in Leeds have no idea what human papillomavirus, or HPV, is.

Research by GynaeHealth UK, a self-screening tool for the virus, revealed that 14 per cent of women in Leeds thought it was an acronym for ventilation and another 14 per cent thought it was the term for a legal high.

In fact certain strains of the virus are responsible for 99.7 per cent of cervical cancers, which can develop years after being infected.

Cervical smear tests detect the changes which indicate cancerous cells, but the survey found that three in 10 women in Leeds don’t attend their appointments, with 70 per cent saying that they find the test uncomfortable.

Jacqui Cain, who was diagnosed with the illness at the age of 27, is urging other women to ensure they are screened.

She admits she had delayed having her second smear test because she was busy moving house and her first experience was not very pleasant.

Her GP surgery reminded her to book and the results showed she had cancer.

Jacqui, from Leeds, underwent successful surgery but said she felt alone during the treatment and found it difficult to access information.

“When I visited Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust website I found it very helpful to understand cervical cancer, its causes and treatment.

“Three years after my diagnosis I became a support group leader in Leeds for Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust. I wanted to help other women who had been diagnosed with cervical cancer and wish something like this had been available during my diagnosis.”

Now the 33-year-old has backed the charity’s #SmearForSmear campaign to help raise awareness of cervical cancer and the importance of screening. Women have been urged to take a selfie with lipstick smeared across their cheek to show support and act as a reminder about smear tests.

Phil Corrigan, chief executive at NHS Leeds West Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “Having regular cervical screening can protect you against cervical cancer. The symptoms of cervical cancer aren’t always obvious and may not cause any symptoms at all until it has reached an advanced stage, which is why you must attend your test.

“The screening is offered free on the NHS, as long as you’re registered with a GP who must have your current address on file.”

* Details of the Leeds cervical cancer support group are at www.jostrust.org.uk/support/support-groups/register-for-a-support-group or email Jacqui Cain at joleedsgroup@gmail.com.

Warning symptoms include:

Abnormal bleeding: during or after sexual intercourse, or between periods

Post menopausal bleeding, if you’re on hormone replacement treatment (HRT) or have stopped it for six weeks

Unusual and/or unpleasant vaginal discharge

Discomfort or pain during sex

Lower back pain

Visit www.nhs.uk/cervicalcancer.