Jersey is to take an active part in European Cervical Cancer Prevention Week, which runs from 19 to 25 January 2014. The Island’s Public Health team are aiming to raise awareness amongst women about the importance of regular cervical screening to prevent cancer. They wish also to raise awareness of possible symptoms that may be associated with cervical cancer and to highlight the value of the HPV vaccination, given in school year 8, which will help protect future generations of women.
Since 2008, the Medical Officer of Health’s team have enabled 12/13 year old girls in Jersey to access in school year 8, free of charge, the same HPV vaccine that the NHS offers to girls in the UK.
Dr Susan Turnbull, Medical Officer of Health, said, “Cervical cancer is caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). Before HPV vaccine was available, UK research showed 1 in 5 sexually active women aged 16 to 18 years in the UK were infected with HPV types known as type 16 and 18, which are responsible for causing over 70% of all cervical cancers.
“Now, research in the UK is showing the incidence of these two HPV infections has fallen to 1 in 15. It is clear that this vaccine is preventing infection with these HPV types among young women, and will help us achieve our aim of reducing cervical cancer in Jersey.”
Currently, in Jersey, one to two women die every year from the disease. Dr Fiona Nelson, Consultant Obstetrician & Gynaecologist is confident these deaths should be preventable. “We want women in Jersey to become more savvy about cervical cancer and to know how to protect themselves. Cervical screening, otherwise known as a smear test, is the most effective way to detect changes in the cells of the cervix. The test looks, not for cancer, but for pre-cancerous abnormalities at an early stage. Without a smear test, these changes could be undetected, as women may not have noticeable symptoms and may look and feel healthy. Smear tests help to prevent eight out of ten cervical cancers from developing”.
Dr Nelson added: “More than nine out of ten women will have a normal (negative) cervical smear result. If you have an abnormal result it doesn’t mean that you have cancer, but you may need another test or appropriate treatment. Early detection really could save your life, so I would urge women to attend for regular screening. It’s a simple procedure that only takes minutes and women can request to be seen by a female member of staff if that would make them feel more comfortable”.
Dr Nelson also wants more women to be aware of symptoms that should prompt them to consult a doctor. She said: “Often women don’t have noticeable symptoms associated with abnormal cells and even with early stage cervical cancer. However, there are some symptoms that women should be aware of, although it should be noted that such symptoms can be associated with many other conditions that are not cancer related. The symptoms that could be associated with the disease are abnormal bleeding after or during sexual intercourse, or between periods; post-menopausal bleeding; unusual or unpleasant smelling vaginal discharge and discomfort or pain during sex.
“Any woman experiencing any of these symptoms, or who is concerned about any new symptom, should consult her GP as soon as possible”
The Public Health team will be distributing information leaflets about cervical screening throughout the week. For more information on cervical screening and the HPV vaccine, women should visit www.gov.je/cervicalscreening