Cervical Cancer Prevention Week runs every January and this year it takes place between the 22nd and the 28th of January. Here at SCPN we’re taking part in the Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust #smearforsmear campaign, and we will also be sharing a series of blog posts on highlighting the importance of smear tests in preventing cervical cancer. Our third and final blog post looks at how the #smearforsmear campaign is trying to raise awareness of the importance of cervical screening and how it is attempting to reach even more women with this potentially life-saving message.

Every year in the UK around 5 million women are invited for cervical screening (smear test) however, despite the cervical screening programme saving around 5,000 lives a year, last year 1.12 million women did not attend this potentially life-saving test when invited..

In Scotland, the number of women attending cervical screening is now at an extremely concerning 10 year low having fallen across every age group and every health board in the last year.

Cervical screening provides the best protection against developing cervical cancer. The test detects cervical abnormalities which, if left untreated, could develop into cervical cancer. However, more than one in four women do not take up their invitation when invited, among women aged 25-29 this increases to one in three. The reasons women do not attend screening are wide ranging. They include embarrassment, not thinking the test is relevant for them, lack of time and simply forgetting. A huge two thirds of women over the age of 50 do not know that HPV causes cervical cancer, and women in this age group report finding screening more painful since growing older (30%) or since going through the menopause in particular (24%) which causes them to delay. Among 25-29 year olds, common barriers are embarrassment (26%), fear that the test might be painful (26%) and not knowing what the test is for (one in 10 think it’s a test for sexually transmitted diseases).

It is evident that there is no magic solution or one size fits all approach to encouraging women to take up their smear test. At Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust part of our role is working with government and health policy makers to urge for investment in targeted campaigns alongside the need to prioritise prevention. In 2016 we launched Time to Test, a campaign aimed at employers asking them to pledge to allow their employees the time off work should they not be able to get a cervical screening appointment outside of working hours, while also raising awareness of cervical cancer and prevention.

Our most successful campaign is #SmearForSmear which since it started in 2015, has reached millions of people worldwide. The campaign targets young women in particular to spark conversation and encourage them to attend cervical screening. It simply asks people to post smeared lipstick selfies and share them with the message: Attend your smear, reduce your risk of cervical cancer.

Now in its third year we’re asking everyone to get involved again. Get snapping and share your #SmearForSmear selfie with us from 22nd January at 11am during Cervical Cancer Prevention Week 2016 (22-28 January) and help us reach even more women with this potentially life-saving message.

Written by Robert Music.

Learn more about Cervical Cancer Prevention Week and the #smearforsmear campaign by visiting the Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust website here.