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Cervical screening saves lives, says RCN

11 Jun 2018

Nursing staff play a vital role in encouraging women to attend for regular checks.

cervical screening

The RCN has published new guidance for registered nurses to mark Cervical Screening Awareness Week (11-18 June).

Human Papillomavirus (HPV), Cervical Screening and Cervical Cancer, provides detailed information on the risks associated with HPV and how regular screening makes a positive difference to women’s health.

One in four women do not attend cervical screening appointments – leaving many at risk of undetected pre-cancerous cells resulting from high-risk HPV, the primary cause of cervical cancer.

HPV is a common sexually transmitted infection and for most women will not cause long-term harm. For a minority of women, the infection leads to abnormal/pre-cancerous changes to the cervix, which, if not treated, may progress to cancer 10 to 20 years later.

Three thousand women are diagnosed with cervical cancer in the UK each year. In 2016 alone, 854 women died as a result of the disease.

Regular cervical screening for women aged 25-64, allows for the identification of abnormalities in the cervix and helps save lives by determining a woman’s risk of cervical cancer earlier.

In a survey of 25-to 29-year-olds, Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, found 70% of young women do not think cervical screening reduces a woman’s risk of cervical cancer.

A quarter were too embarrassed to attend cervical screenings highlighting the importance of nursing staff providing informed and sensitive care to women who attend these appointments.

The RCN is calling on nursing staff to increase awareness among women and men about the risks of HPV at every opportunity.

The guidance also provides clinical information on the different types of cervical cancer, their diagnosis and treatment and the HPV vaccine.

Carmel Bagness, Professional Lead for Midwifery and Women’s Health, said: “Cervical screening saves lives, and we can all play a vital role in supporting women through the process.

“This guidance provides nursing staff with the tools they need to perform cervical screening and stresses the importance of early diagnosis and treatment of cervical cancer.

“All registered nurses and midwives who undertake cervical screenings must have access to training programmes and ongoing continuing professional development opportunities, to enhance service provision and aim to help reduce the barriers which may prevent women from accessing these vital services.”