Join Women Like Us
NHS Waltham Forest Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) latest campaign 'Join Women Like Us' calls for women, aged 25 to 64 living in the borough, to attend their cervical screening.
The ‘Join Women Like Us’ campaign features the faces of some local women, who have shared the stories of their screening experiences, in the hope of educating and encouraging other local women to attend regular cervical screening appointments.
On this resource page, you will be able to find information and advice, which has been designed to better inform and guide you through your cervical screening experience.
You can read about the real-life experiences of the women featured in the campaign, the types of barriers they faced when it came to attending a screening and what encouraged them to overcome their worries and difficulties.
If you have any questions about the procedure, you can talk to your GP, Practice Nurse or Healthcare Professional.
Did you know, you can now book an out of hours appointments in an extended hours GP hub? Call the service directly on 020 8519 3999 between 12pm and 8pm on weekdays and between 8am – 6pm on Saturdays and Sundays all year round for an appointment.
If you are not registered to a local GP, visit NHS Choices to find a local healthcare service that can help.
For more information about cervical cancer, visit Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust website. They are a charity dedicated to women affected by cervical cancer and abnormalities.
"I was very good with keeping up with my smears when I was younger, but I became so busy with the children so would sometimes leave the invitation letter from the GP to the side for a while. But I’ve got a daughter who is 15, so I said to myself that I need to be going to the screening and setting the example for her. Looking after yourself inside, is as important as it is on the outside and your appearance. Women should know that there are many places to go and ask about the screening and some think they have to go to the doctor but they should know that they can talk to a female nurse member of the team at the GP and just find out more about the procedure. They need to know that they have the choice of asking for a female and small little details like that will help stop women holding back from asking questions."
"The opening of the walk-in clinic at Whipps Cross is going to be a heaven sent clinic for FGM victims to go and see the amazing team there for an appointment for cervical screening. Many women in the borough know the Doctor and the team there and it’s all to do with trust. Women who have undergone FGM have a massive issue with trust, because when you were cut, you were cut by the people that you trusted. So when you trust one doctor and familiarise yourself with them, it’s easier to go and get the services that women desperately need. After a psychological trauma like rape, sexual assault or FGM, it may be the first time that you’ve allowed someone else to see you down there but if you can live through that trauma and overcome it, you can face the test. Don’t be afraid, if I can do it, I can promise that you can."
"Working office hours makes it harder to go to things like doctors’ appointments. I’m fortunate that my GP practice offers appointments from 7:30 in the morning through to 6:30 at night so I’m lucky in terms of if I need to see someone, I can go either end of the day. I know that this can be the single most difficult thing for women who work similar Monday to Friday office jobs like me to access an appointment. Even if women want to, it can be difficult to fit things in around work commitments, work times and meetings. Some women may not feel like they’re at risk because they don’t understand what the health factors are or why they’re invited for screening or what exactly causes cervical cancer but it’s not as straight forward as that. Women need to take the time to understand the procedure."
Your questions answered
What is a cervical screen?
A cervical screening test (previously known as a smear test) is a method of detecting abnormal cells on the cervix, the entrance to the womb from the vagina.
Cervical screening isn't a test for cancer, it's a test to check the health of the cells of the cervix.
Most women's test results show that everything is normal, but for around 1 in 20 women in the UK, the test shows some abnormal changes in the cells of the cervix.
Most of these changes won't lead to cervical cancer and the cells may go back to normal on their own. But in some cases, the abnormal cells need to be removed so they can't become cancerous.
Is the test for me?
It is possible for women of all ages to develop cervical cancer, although the condition mainly affects sexually active women aged 25 - 65.
If you are aged:
- 25 to 49, you should be screened every 3 years
- 50 to 64, you should be screened every 5 years
- 65 and over, you should be screened as soon as possible if you haven't been screened since age 50 or if you've recently had abnormal test results.
If you are due for screening but you are currently pregnant, you can defer your screening until after you have had your baby. Your GP practice can provide you with a form to do this. If you have recently given birth, you should wait until 12 weeks after the birth of your baby to attend a screening appointment.
Why should I have the screening?
The aim of the NHS Cervical Screening Programme is to reduce the number of women who develop cervical cancer and the number of women who die from the condition. Every year in the UK, around 3,000 women will be diagnosed with cervical cancer.
Having regular screens means any abnormal changes in the cells of the cervix can be identified at an early stage and, if necessary, treated to stop cancer from developing. However, screening is a personal choice and you have the right to choose not to attend a screening.
Cervical cancer is the most common cancer in women aged 35 and under and it is not thought to be hereditary.
What causes cervical cancer?
In 99.7% of cases, cervical cancers are caused by persistent infections with a virus called high-risk human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is a very common virus transmitted through skin-to-skin contact in the genital area. Around four out of five sexually active adults (80%) will be infected with some type of HPV in their lives. However, for the majority of women this will not result in cervical cancer. While HPV infection is common, cervical cancer is rare.
I've been to my screening, the results came back clear and I'm up to date with my appointments. What should I do?
Remember when you are due to have your next screening and watch out for your invitation letter in the post.
Why not get involved with the ‘Join Women Like Us’ campaign, over on the CCG Facebook & Twitter channels. Join Hibo, Stephanie & Sandra, the women behind the campaign, and share your screening story to raise awareness about the importance of cervical screening amongst local women to help eradicate cervical cancer from the Waltham Forest community.
I've been to my screening and the results did not come back clear. What should I do?
Head over to Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust website for more information and guidance. They are the only UK charity dedicated to women affected by cervical cancer and cervical abnormalities.
I'm not registered to a local GP and I'm unsure about how I book an appointment. What should I do?
If you aren’t registered to a local GP, visit NHS Choices to find a GP surgery that is close to where you live and ask them about registering. After registering, you can talk to a member of staff at the surgery about how and when you can have the screening done.
I'm feeling embarrassed, nervous and/or scared about the procedure. What should I do?
Talk to your GP, Practice Nurse, or Healthcare professional. Tell them about your thoughts and any worries you may have. They will be able to answer any questions you have and tailor what they are doing throughout the process to make you feel as comfortable as possible. You can ask to have a female doctor or nurse.
It is possible to have a chaperone present, perhaps a trusted family member or a friend, to support you through the process. If this is something you would like, please advise a member of the team at your GP when you book your appointment or when you arrive for the screening.
Read Hibo, Stephanie & Sandra’s experiences of cervical screening, they tell us how they overcame feelings of doubt, embarrassment and nerves and why they had their screening done despite these barriers.
I don't know enough about the screening procedure, and because of this, I don’t want to go to my appointment. What should I do?
Your GP, Practice Nurse or local Healthcare Professional can talk you through what is involved, before, during and after the screening. They can tell you how long it will take to have the test done, and when you can expect to receive the results afterwards.
Am I allowed to bring my baby along to the screening?
Yes, you can bring your baby along with you to the screening.
I want to know more about the cervical screening programme, where can I find more information?
I want to know more about cervical cancer, where can I find more information?
The UCLH Cancer Collaborative campaign called The Small C can provide you with more information about the condition. On their website, you’ll be able to find out about the symptoms of cervical cancer and advice on what you can do to prevent it.
I’ve experienced female genital mutilation (FGM), I have questions about the screening and I’m not sure where to go for answers and advice.
The first walk-in clinic in England offering cervical screening tests to women who have experienced female genital mutilation (FGM) has opened at Whipps Cross Hospital.
The clinic, run by Barts Health NHS Trust, gives women the opportunity to use a convenient walk-in service with an FGM specialist gynaecologist, psycho-social practitioner, an FGM specialist midwife, a female FGM-trained sample taker and access to an interpreter.
The walk-in clinic is open on the final Monday of the month from 9am-12pm at the Perineal Clinic, Area A, Outpatients building, Whipps Cross Hospital, Leytonstone, London E11 1NR.
I’m busy during daytime GP surgery opening hours, so I find it hard to attend an appointment during these times. What other appointment options are available?
If you’re unable to attend an appointment during daytime surgery opening hours, due to work or home life commitments. You can now book an out of hours appointments in an extended hours GP hub. Call the service directly on 020 8519 3999 between 12pm and 8pm on weekdays and between 8am – 6pm on Saturdays and Sundays all year round for an appointment.