Cervical cancer smear test could save your life

Suzanne fernando with msps web

Activist Suzanne Fernando was recently invited back to The Scottish Parliament and hosted a drop-in event for MSPs to tell them about cervical cancer and its impact

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13th October 2017 by TFN Guest 0 Comments

I was diagnosed with cervical cancer during my second pregnancy with my daughter Aaron, around Christmas 2000, and almost died before getting the chance to hold my newborn baby girl. I found it difficult to get any information and support during my treatment and made the decision that when I beat the ‘Big C’ that I'd do everything I could to raise awareness. That was when I found out about Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust and have been a volunteer ever since. 

Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust is the only UK charity dedicated to women affected by cervical cancer and cervical abnormalities so without this charity I've no doubt many thousands of women across the UK would struggle to cope.

This charity has a mission which I fully support and that is to see cervical cancer prevented and reduce the impact for everyone affected by cervical abnormalities and cervical cancer through providing the highest quality information and support, and campaigning for excellence in cervical cancer treatment and prevention. I never want another woman to ever have to go through what I did and that's why I am so passionate about raising awareness.

Each year in the UK, around 3,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer and around 220,000 women are told they may have some form of cervical abnormality. Cervical cancer is caused by a very common virus called human papillomavirus (HPV). Anyone who is sexually active can contract HPV through contact with someone who already has the virus.

Most people are infected with HPV at some point in their lives, but may never know they have been infected. Like other viral infections, such as a cold, HPV is usually cleared by the body's immune system without the need for other treatment. We do not know why a small percentage of people do not clear the infection, which can remain 'dormant' (inactive) in their bodies sometimes for many years.

Research indicates that the HPV vaccine could prevent two thirds of cervical cancers in women under the age of 30 years old by 2025, but only if uptake of the HPV vaccination is at 80%. To date, the UK has achieved this level each year in the national HPV immunisation programme.

Spreading the word about the impact of cervical cancer and the need to increase cervical screening (smear test) uptake rates is really important and will help eradicate the condition. 

Having a smear test saves around 5,000 women’s lives every year. I think that anyone who gets a letter asking them to go for a smear should go. It takes a few minutes out of your day and having that smear test could save your life. I've lost so many beautiful friends throughout the years to cervical cancer, it really is time to say enough is enough and make a positive change to the survival rates in women.  My message is simple - please don't delay make your appointment today!

I was delighted with the turnout and response we got from the MSPs at the Scottish Parliament. I've been lucky enough to have visited parliament on a few occasions now so not only was it great to catch up with many of the politicians but also a wonderful opportunity to raise awareness and hear how they aim to help eradicate cervical cancer too.

For example my own local MSP Kenneth Gibson (who with his wife Patricia have been a huge support throughout the years) will be raising the issue of cervical cancer screening when he meets NHS Ayrshire & Arran chief executive John Burns.