Cervical Cancer Prevention Week is almost upon us, and so Soroptimists everywhere are urging anyone with a cervix to take action now, to help prevent any more people succumbing to this dreadful disease.
According to the NHS website, cervical cancer is a cancer that’s found anywhere in the cervix. This means that anyone with a cervix – including women, trans men, non-binary people and intersex people with a cervix – are all at risk.
Almost all cervical cancers are caused by an infection with certain high-risk types of the human papillomavirus (HPV), which can be contracted via any skin-to-skin contact of the genital area, vaginal, anal or oral sex, or by sharing sex toys.
Unfortunately, because of the nature of the disease and the way it is spread and contracted, there is often a lot of shame and stigma still associated with this type of cancer, which complicates the drive for early detection. Yet, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), “when diagnosed, cervical cancer is one of the most successfully treatable forms of cancer, as long as it is detected early and managed effectively”.
This need for early detection is further hampered by the fact that many women and people with a cervix simply do not enjoy the screening process (known as a smear test), which can often be an unpleasant and uncomfortable experience, both in terms of the procedure itself and the feelings of embarrassment that accompany it.
I know from personal experience that it is all too easy to put off that smear test until next month, when I’m less busy. Or after Christmas. Or when I get back off holiday. And, before I know it, two years have passed and my smear test is well overdue. Furthermore, if we have never experienced the fear of an abnormal smear result, it is all too easy to become complacent. And yet those two years could be the difference between me surviving cervical cancer and me dying from it.
And this is precisely why Cervical Cancer Prevention Week is required, so that women like me, and you, and everyone else with a cervix, can realise the importance of getting tested early and encourage others to do the same.
So, let’s find out more about Cervical Cancer Prevention Week.
What Is Cervical Cancer Prevention Week?
Cervical Cancer Prevention week takes place every year and aims to raise awareness of the importance of cervical screening. The event is primarily led by Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, who state;
“We want to ensure all women and people with a cervix know how cervical cancer can be prevented. This means:
- Attending cervical screening when invited
- Knowing the symptoms of cervical cancer and seeking medical advice if experiencing any
- Taking up the HPV vaccination if aged 11-18
- Knowing where to find support and further information”
For 2023, Jo’s Trust are launching their biggest campaign yet; the Together #WeCan End Cervical Cancer. According to their website “we have the tools to make cervical cancer a thing of the past. HPV vaccination, cervical screening, and treatment for cell changes can all help prevent it but we need to increase awareness and uptake.”
When Is Cervical Cancer Prevention Week?
Cervical Cancer Prevention Week takes place annually in January, although the dates do tend to vary depending on the year and your location.
Here in the UK, Cervical Cancer Prevention Week will take place from 23rd to 29th January 2023.
In Europe, the European Cervical Cancer Prevention Week will take place from 16th to 22nd January 2023.
Why Is Cervical Cancer Prevention Week Needed?
As already mentioned, the earlier cervical cancer – or abnormal changes to the cervix – are identified, the better the outcome. Early detection and treatment gives the patient the best chance of cervical cancer being an entirely treatable disease.
Cervical cancer is the most common cancer in women aged 35, and 75% of cervical cancers are prevented by cervical screening (smear tests). Yet only 1 in 3 people with a cervix ever take up their invitation to a smear test and 1 in 3 young women don’t accept their HPV vaccine.
However, Cervical Cancer Prevention Week is not simply aimed at women in the UK. The WHO Director-General announced a global call for action to eliminate cervical cancer, stating that;
“Few diseases reflect global inequities as much as cancer of the cervix. Nearly 90% of the deaths in 2018 occurred in low- and middle-income countries. This is where the burden of cervical cancer is greatest, because access to public health services is limited and screening and treatment for the disease have not been widely implemented.
An ambitious, concerted and inclusive strategy has been developed to guide the elimination of cervical cancer as a public health problem.”
What Can I Do To Help Prevent Cervical Cancer?
This Cervical Cancer Prevention Week, it is important that we, as Soroptimists, heed this call to action and do what we can to spread the message about the important of cervical cancer screening. There are a number of ways this could be done, either via a physical programme action campaign with your club or via a spreading of the message on social media.
If you would like to access some resources to help you share the news about cervical screening, you can do so via the following websites;
- Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust have a wide range of resources, including social media graphics and posters.
- The WHO has a range of resources and detailed literature available on it’s website for downloading and sharing.
- Public Health England have a good range of posters and other literature available for use via their website.
And finally, on a personal note, the campaign should begin at home. Soroptimist sisters, if you haven’t done so recently, I urge you; please go and get your smear test done. It’s a few minutes of discomfort that could just save your life.
If you’d like to find out more about the Soroptimists and what we do, then you can contact SIGBI via our website or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively, you can find us on social media and follow us on Facebook.