by Alex Cocker, Cancer Wise Leeds Screening and Awareness coordinator
In my role as a community screening and awareness coordinator for the Cancer Wise Leeds project, I am working alongside GP practices and organisations in different communities of west Leeds to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of cancer and to help improve the uptake of bowel, breast and cervical screenings.
Screening programmes are an extremely important and vital way of detecting the early signs of disease and we want to ensure that every single person who may be eligible for a cancer screening in west Leeds makes their appointment at the earliest possible opportunity.
In this month’s article, I am going to focus specifically on cervical screenings.
As a bit of background, cervical screening saves at least 2,000 lives each year in the UK. The test can detect signs before a cancer has even developed, allowing treatment to take place immediately.
Cervical screening is offered to all patients with a cervix every three years for those aged 25 to 49 and every five years for those aged 50 to 64.
Since March 2020, the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, we have seen participation levels in the cervical national screening programme (smear test) decrease in Leeds, with the lowest uptake for cervical screening in the 25 to 49 age group.
With the addition of the Covid-19 pandemic, Cancer Wise Leeds has been working with the GP practices different areas of west Leeds to help support attendance and to help overcome some of the barriers that patients have for attending screening appointments.
In 2020 a survey was undertaken of patients in the 35-50 age bracket in Bramley and Wortley area to identify some of the reasons for non-attendance of cervical screening.
Many patients advised that the reason that they were unable to attend cervical screening appointments was due to availability of appointments at times that they could attend due to work, care and childcare.
To meet this challenge, the cervical screening (smear) hub was launched in September 2020 offering additional capacity of nurse screening appointments for patients from all practices within the Bramley and Wortley area at Beech Tree Practice on a Saturday.
We have been encouraged by the response and I am pleased to say that weekend appointments are now also being replicated in 13 hubs outside of practice standard hours across the city. If a weekend screening might work better for you, please contact your GP practice to see if this service is available.
In terms of screenings did you also know that:
- You can contact your surgery about any questions.
- You can take someone with you.
- You can ask for a female nurse.
- You can ask for longer/ double appointments.
- You can ask for an interpreter.
- If you have had the HPV vaccine cervical screening is still important.
We know that some people will have some concerns in attending screenings due to different Covid-19 issues. We would like to reassure you that there are measures continue to be in place to keep both patients and staff safe.
We have a great video on the Cancer Wise Leeds YouTube channel that explains the steps that are being taken regarding safety and what you can expect in a cervical screening.
The video is also available in Polish and Urdu.
If you do receive your cervical screening letter, please book your appointment with your surgery as soon as possible. Cancer screenings can save lives.
For more information regarding Cancer Wise Leeds, which is funded by Yorkshire Cancer Research and delivered in partnership by Leeds City Council and the Leeds Cancer programme partnership, please follow the link.