Dr Angela Goyal: Why would a quarter of Leeds women not have a smear test?

Leeds GP and new YEP columnist Angela Goyal gives her views on why cervical sceening is so important.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 26th January 2017, 10:44 am
Updated Friday, 27th January 2017, 1:31 pm
Dr Angela Goyal, at the Leeds Student Medical Practice. PIC: Simon Hulme
Dr Angela Goyal, at the Leeds Student Medical Practice. PIC: Simon Hulme

This week is Cervical Cancer Prevention Week.

About a quarter of women in Leeds did not attend for cervical screening, the smear test, last year, which is a shame because this important test saves lives by preventing cervical cancer from developing.

Since the screening programme was introduced in the 1980s the number of new cases of cervical cancer has reduced by 44 per cent and the number of deaths reduced by 70 per cent.

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Staff Support Cervical cancer week at the Leeds Student Medical Practice. PIC: Simon Hulme

A population based study published in the Journal of Medical Screening in October 2016 conducted face to face interviews with 580 women to assess why women may not attend for screening.

The top four reasons were embarrassment, not getting round to it, fear of pain and worry about what the test may find.

To try to tackle this, in our surgery, we have a “pink week” campaign which we run 3 times a year.

We started it in June 2015 to coincide with Jo’s trust Cervical Screening Awareness week.

Staff Support Cervical cancer week at the Leeds Student Medical Practice. PIC: Simon Hulme

This is a dedicated campaign within the Practice where we turn everything pink to encourage our patients to have cervical screening.

The embarrassment factor is reduced when the whole surgery is pink as you feel that lots of other women are having the test. If you just haven’t got round to it our pink slips remind you to have the test done and we put on extra appointments so women can book in there and then.

Regarding fear of pain- well I go for mine.. It is a bit uncomfortable but it’s over in a couple of minutes.

The test is not looking for cancer so you are not going to receive a “bad news” letter. The test looks for cells which may develop into cancer in the future so you may be offered treatment, depending on the severity, to prevent this happening.

Also worth mentioning is that if you have any unusual symptoms you should always report them to your GP regardless of your age or if you have had normal smear test.

So always report symptoms such as bleeding between periods, bleeding after sex, bleeding after the menopause, pain during sex or unusual vaginal discharge.

So, what can you do?

If you are between 25 and 49 you should be screened 3 yearly, between 50 to 64 every 5 years. If you think you may be overdue contact your GP

If you have had yours already then mention it to friends and family. Or join the #SmearForSmear campaign to encourage others. This is where you apply lipstick, smear it across your face and post a selfie on social media with the hashtag and @joscervicalcancertrust. This is one selfie campaign I did participate in as I really feel it is worth spreading the word.

Dr Angela is a GP at Leeds Student Medical Practice where she has interests in sexual and mental health. She has a specialist interest in Dermatology and holds dermatology clinics at Street Lane Practice.

Dr Angela gives teaching seminars for other doctors in this subject. She is passionate about advocating healthy lifestyles to prevent illness. Away from the surgery she likes to spend time with her family and keeping fit and healthy.