Cancer Screening: Why It Is So Important

Dr Sarah Louden

Dr Sarah Louden

General Practitioner

I’m Dr Sarah Louden, one of the GPs at Jesmond Health Partnership.

As General Practitioners, we cover a huge range of medical issues, but throughout our careers, we do extra study, research and gain qualifications to specialise in certain areas.

Two of my special interests – cancer and women’s health – have a clear overlap, and that’s what I’d like to talk to you about.

Cancer 

You may have seen an article we posted in August calledSpotting cancer early saves lives’. It’s completely true. As with a lot of medical conditions, the sooner it’s detected, the better the chance of successful treatment. 

But what does that mean in practice?

It means not ignoring or downplaying signs or symptoms and getting them checked by a Doctor as soon as possible.

If you spot something you can’t explain – a new lump or pain, or unusual bleeding, especially when you go to the toilet – then please don’t put it aside and hope it will sort itself out. Chances are it might, but that’s a risk no one needs to take.

Since the pandemic struck earlier in the year, our colleagues at the Northern Cancer Alliance have seen a big drop off in the number of people being referred for cancer tests, because fewer people were going to their GP for help.

This means there could be people at risk of developing cancer who are not getting the support and treatment they need.

So the message is clear – please don’t ignore symptoms like new pains, lumps or unusual bleeding. Get in touch with us today using our online consultation tool Salvie.

Cervical Screening

One specific programme the NHS runs to detect early signs of cancer is the cervical screening service.

Every 3 years, women over 25 are invited for routine screening, then every 5 years after the age of 50. The test looks for cells that could cause cancer and takes no more than 10 minutes. Abnormal results can be monitored or treated, which greatly reduces the chance of cancer developing.

Regular screening keeps your track of your cervical health and detects changes. But you should never wait for your next scheduled screening if you experience symptoms like unusual bleeding – get in touch with us straight away.

It’s a hugely important programme – it’s effective and it saves lives. But here are a few figures which show why talking about screening and encouraging women to not ignore their invitations is so vital.

  • Every year over 3,200 women developed cervical cancer. 
  • 99.8% of those cases are preventable.
  • Yet only 71% of women regularly attend screenings.
  • That’s the lowest rate for more than 20 years.

Back in March, the programme was paused to help the NHS focus on COVID-19 but has now started up again.

If your screening was due in the last few months, you will be invited in due course You’ve not been forgotten, it will just take a little time for the NHS to catch up.  

It’s another clear message: Cervical cancer is almost completely avoidable. 3 in every 10 women could be putting themselves at risk. Please don’t ignore your next screening invitation.

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