Fewer women are going for cervical and breast screening appointments. According to the NHS, 1 in 4 women did not attend a cervical screening appointment in 2017/18. Healthwatch groups across the region have been working with Wessex Voices to find out what stops women from attending screening appointments. They’ve spoken to over 230 women as well as holding focus groups and running a social media campaign. They found that many women didn’t know they were eligible for screening, put off going because they’d previously had a bad experience or thought it would be embarrassing and/or painful.
Wessex Voices have used the feedback they’ve gathered to make some recommendations to the NHS to help improve screening rates, such as:
- Consider how to make appointments more accessible for women in terms of times, places and booking methods.
- Offer double appointments for those who find screening distressing.
- Promote the benefits of screening and create a searchable online tool for women to seek information anonymously according to individual needs.
Nikki took part in this project and has also recorded a podcast with Healthwatch Dorset about her experience. Nikki explains:
“My smear test came back with pre-cancerous cells, which was a real shock. I had to go into hospital for a biopsy and was called back in for a loop excision procedure. The little operation went really well, honestly I didn’t feel a thing, and what made it go so well was the nurses there, they were friendly, compassionate and made me feel relaxed. I brought someone to support me as well, which was a good idea. It's certainly a lot better than dying of cervical cancer.”
Click below to hear Nikki talking about her experience of cervical screening services in Dorset.
If everyone who’s eligible attended cervical screening regularly 83% of cervical cancer deaths could be prevented. The NHS is launching a national #CervicalScreeningSavesLives campaign from 5 March. Cervical screening takes five minutes and you only have to go once every three or five years depending on your age. That’s five minutes that could save your life.