Women across East Berkshire are being urged to take note of an important message from their local NHS.
Today (22/1) marks the start of Cervical Cancer Prevention week which is themed ‘Reduce your risk’. The week aims to raise awareness of the importance of cervical screening and its role in preventing cancer, as well as encouraging women to go for their screening test when invited.
Every day 9 women in the UK are diagnosed with cervical cancer and 2 women will lose their lives to the disease. Cervical cancer is the most common cancer in women under 35 but is largely preventable thanks to cervical screening and the HPV vaccination programme.
However, statistics show that the number of women aged 25-29 years of age being screened for cervical cancer is the lowest in any age group and numbers attending for screening are falling year on year. Surveys undertaken by cancer charities indicate embarrassment and a lack of understanding of the causes of cervical cancer may be behind the fall in numbers attending.
The number of women dying from cervical cancer has halved over the past 28 years as a result of the NHS screening programme as well as improvement in treatment.
Despite this success, over 5,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year and over 900 die each year from this. Some of these women diagnosed with cervical cancer have delayed coming forward for screening which has impacted on their ability to have early changes treated.
Dr Anant Sachdev, local GP and the clinical commissioning lead for cancer across East Berkshire, said: “With there being a national decline in the uptake of cervical screening in some age groups, now is as an important time as any to raise awareness of the different ways cervical cancer can be prevented.
“It is really important for women to understand the importance of attending cervical screening when they receive a letter from their GP as it can detect pre-cancer abnormalities, which, if left untreated, may develop into cancer. Screening is for people without symptoms as a preventative measure.
” The screening test is relatively simple, takes about 5 minutes and is performed by the Practice Nurse at your GP Surgery.”
Note: Throughout the week, East Berkshire Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) will be using social media channels to raise awareness of the facts around cervical cancer and the screening programme.
Cervical screening charity Jo’s Trust undertook research amongst women aged 25-29 in 2013 which indicated that:
One in three do not take up the invite for cervical screening
20.3% think cervical screening is an unnecessary health test
29.5% think cervical screening is not important to have regularly
• Cervical screening is offered to all women aged 25 to 64 years old, with women aged 25 to 49 screened three yearly and women aged 50 to 64 screened every five years.
• The HPV vaccine was introduced in 2008 for girls aged 17 and is now given to girls at school when they reach 12 and 13. It is still important for women who have been vaccinated to practice safe sex and to take up screening when they reach 25. Recent research published in the Lancet indicates that maintaining and increasing screening coverage in unvaccinated women will remain a challenge for the next 25 years.
• Please see the embedded leaflet produced by Cancer Research UK which explains how to reduce your risk of cervical cancer, what signs and symptoms to look out for and what cervical screening is.
Commissioners in East of Berkshire have launched a campaign to raise awareness of atrial fibrillation, which can make you five times more likely to have a stroke.
Atrial fibrillation is a heart condition that causes an irregular and often abnormally fast heart rate. A normal heart rate should be regular and between 60 and 100 beats a minute when you are resting.
Slough, Bracknell & Ascot, and Windsor, Ascot & Maidenhead clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) are encouraging people to check their pulses to save lives – it’s the easiest way to detect the condition.
The British Heart Foundation offers the following advice on how to check your pulse:
1. Put one of your hands out so you are looking at your palm
2. Use the index finger and middle finger of your other hand and place the skin of these fingertips on the inside of your wrist. You should place them, at the base of your thumb near where the strap of a watch would sit
3. Press lightly and feel the pulse – if you can’t feel anything press slightly harder or move your fingers around until you feel your pulse
4. Once you’ve found your pulse, continue to feel it for about 20-30 seconds Feel the rhythm of the pulse to see whether it’s regular or not
A normal pulse should follow a steady beat. If you have atrial fibrillation your pulse will usually feel irregular and unpredictable, as well as sometimes fast and weaker. If your pulse feels like this, or if you are worried, please contact your GP practice.
Approximately 1 million people across the UK are affected by the condition. If left undetected, it can increase a person’s risk of stroke fivefold.
Symptoms can include dizziness, shortness of breath and tiredness. You may have noticeable heart palpitations – the heart feels like it’s pounding, fluttering or beating irregularly, often for a few seconds or minutes. However, not everyone will experience such symptoms and some people may be completely unaware that their heart rate is irregular.
Adults of any age can suffer with atrial fibrillation, but it becomes more common as you get older. About 7 in 100 people over 65 have the condition and more men than women have it. People with conditions such as high blood pressure (hypertension), atherosclerosis, or a heart valve problem are also more likely to have it.
Doctor Anant Sachdev, a GP in Bracknell and a clinical lead for cardiology for the three CCGs, said: “Raising awareness to help identify and treat people with atrial fibrillation is one of four key areas of the east Berkshire cardiology programme. We want to improve cardiology services and the quality of care that patients receive. One of the ways we can do that is to show patients how they can care for themselves in certain situations.
“Checking your pulse in an important factor in good self-care and I would encourage people to carry out the simple check in the comfort of their own homes.
“Early detection and appropriate medical management can help patients enjoy a healthier and happier life for longer, avoiding long-term conditions such as stroke which can leave some people with severe disabilities.“