Healthwatch launches new initiative on bowel and cervical screenings

We are proud to announce a new initiative encouraging Camden residents to book screenings for bowel and cervical cancers.

This initiative, in collaboration with the North Central London Cancer Alliance is running until the end of April and will see multiple events across Camden informing and encouraging people about the screening process.

During the pandemic, the three cancer screening programmes (breast, cervical and bowel) were paused for at least three months, only inviting those at high risk during this time. This created a delay to the screening of patients. Not only that, but there are still large amounts of stigma and fear over these screenings. We want to make these programmes as accessible as possible, and encourage all eligible residents to attend their screenings when invited.

Bowel screening rates remains low in Camden

Bowel cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the UK, and detecting it at the earliest stage makes you up to nine times more likely to be successfully treated. But, almost one third of people who were sent an NHS bowel cancer screening test in Camden last year did not go on to complete it.

Just a tiny sample detects signs of cancer before you notice anything wrong. The test is simple to complete and can be done in the privacy of your own bathroom. Anyone aged 60 to 74 who lives in England and is registered with a GP practice will be sent a test in the post automatically every two years. NHS England is also extending this to include all 50 to 59 year olds by 2025.

Cancer Research UK have a lot of useful information on screening and symptoms.

Cervical cancer is one of the most preventable cancers

It has been estimated that in England, cervical screening prevents 70% of cervical cancer deaths and that if everyone attended screening regularly, 83% of cervical cancer deaths could be prevented.

Women aged 25-64 are eligible for screening. Those registered as female with their GP practice are invited for routine screening every three years if they are aged 25-49, and every five years if they are aged 50-64. Those registered as male will need to request an appointment from their GP or a local sexual health clinic.

Screenings can cause a lot of worry or embarrassment for a lot of women. Here are some tips the NHS reccomends:

  • For most, cervical screening tests are not painful. But if you are worried that you may find the test uncomfortable, remember you are in control and can ask to stop at any time.
  • Discuss your concerns with your nurse, you can ask for a smaller speculum or the nurse can advise you on different positions to make it more comfortable.
  • If you want to make sure a woman carries out your test, you can ask for this when you make your appointment.
  • You might want to wear a skirt or dress or a long jumper, which you can keep on during the test. If you forget to do this, don’t worry – you’ll be provided with a disposable modesty sheet to cover yourself.
  • Ask your nurse about breathing exercises, as these can help.
  • Take a podcast or music to listen to – this may help you relax or distract you.                                                        
  • Cervical screening only lasts a few minutes, and you only have to go once every 3 or 5 years depending on your age. It’s a few minutes that could save your life.

For more help or information on cervical screenings, visit the NHS website or Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust.