Cervical Screening Awareness Week: getting the facts out
Kate Sanger highlights the need to provide support and information this Cervical Screening Awareness Week
Amidst the whirlwind of the last year, communications about the move to human papillomavirus (HPV) testing within cervical screening have taken a backseat. In Scotland, the change happened just as the UK went into lockdown, and in England and Wales there remain many women and people with a cervix who have not attended since the change in programme.
14–20 June is Cervical Screening Awareness Week. We have a valuable opportunity to highlight the importance of the test but also to communicate what HPV testing is, and what it means to have HPV. Improving screening uptake remains essential, yet it shouldn't be a tick box exercise where we overlook the needs of those faced with HPV or a cell changes diagnosis: not only to reduce anxiety but to retain confidence and trust in the programme.
For those of us armed with the facts about HPV, a diagnosis may seem straightforward. However these three letters are what we hear the most about through our support services at Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust and this continues to increase. For many callers the first time they heard about HPV was in their result letter, and confusion, fear and anxiety are common reactions. Connotations of promiscuity, feeling dirty and assumptions it means cancer are things we regularly hear, with callers often making significant lifestyle changes to try and clear the infection. For those diagnosed with cell changes or cancer, the HPV diagnosis itself can bring long-lasting, and sometimes severe impacts on mental health.
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