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Cervical Cancer Prevention Week 2014

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    Information about symptoms, causes, ways to prevent the disease and the importance of prompt diagnosis and treatment.

    By Ali Cloak

19th – 25th January 2014 is Cervical Cancer Prevention Week, led by the European Cervical Cancer Association and supported by a number of UK Charities, including Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust. 

Jo’s Trust mission is:

“ Our mission is to see cervical cancer prevented, reduce the impact for everyone affected by cervical abnormalities and cervical cancer through providing the highest quality information and support services and campaigning for excellence in cervical cancer treatment and prevention.”

In the UK cervical cancer is the most common cancer in women under 35, which currently kills around 1000 women in the UK every year [1]

WHAT IS CERVICAL CANCER?

Cervical cancer forms in the tissues of the cervix. In the UK there are 3000 new diagnoses annually. The majority of cervical cancer is slow-growing, and takes around 10-15 years for most abnormal cells to change into cervical cancer [2].

Over 99% of cervical cancers are caused by persistent human papillomavirus (HPV), which causes changes to the cervical cells. Whilst most people will contract HPV at some point in their lives, only a very small percentage will go on to develop cervical cancer [3].

Cervical cancer does not always have symptoms, particularly in the early stages.

Once diagnosed, the treatment varies according to the type of cervical cancer, as well as the extent the cancer has progressed.

HOW CAN IT BE PREVENTED?

Thankfully the vast majority of cervical cancer can be prevented through cervical screening and HPV vaccination.

The most effective method of preventing cervical cancer is through regular cervical screening, which allows detection of any early changes in the cervix. Cervical screening is the process whereby cells are taken from your cervix and examined with a microscope. It is not a test for cancer, rather it is a screening test to detect abnormalities that can be treated to prevent cancer developing.

It is estimated that the current screening regime saves 5,000 lives a year in the UK [4].

In England screening is offered between the ages of 24 and 64 but alarmingly 20% of women do not take up their invitation for cervical screening.

WHAT ELSE CAN BE DONE?

Cervical Cancer Prevention Week 2014 aims to increase awareness of the symptoms of cervical cancer and the importance of cervical screening in preventing the disease.

The lawyers in the Clinical Negligence Team are in full support of this awareness campaign. It also brings to the forefront of our minds the importance of prompt diagnosis and treatment of the disease when it cannot be prevented.  We have acted for clients where delays in the diagnosis of cervical cancer have had tragic consequences, for example if the cancer has spread during the period of delay causing the patient to require more extensive treatment and suffering a worse outcome.  These delays can be caused, for example, as a result of inadequate screening or misinterpretation of swabs.

If you have any concerns in relation to misdiagnosis of cervical cancer that you would like to discuss, please contact me or one of my colleagues for further advice.

[1-4 – statistics from Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust]

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