People in Lancashire are being urged to accept their invites for a screening programme that helps save thousands of lives every year.​

Cervical Screening Awareness Week 2024 runs from 17 to 23 June, highlighting the importance of attending the free screenings that are offered to 25 to 64-year-olds.

Leanne Hudson, 37, from Burnley, initially ignored her invite, but now encourages her colleagues to attend their cervical screening, also called a smear test, when they are invited.

She said: “I would advise anyone to go for screening. In fact, I work in an office and I drum it into everyone in the team how important it is to go for screening: the sooner the better.”

Having received her first invite aged 25, Leanne was nervous about attending and put it off for about six months.

She said: “I got the first invite letter through the door and I knew I should go but I put it off, I don’t know why.

“Then I was due to be going on holiday and someone I knew said, just go, get it done and then you can relax. Maybe I had a feeling that there was something there.”

The results of her smear test showed that there were some abnormal cells in Leanne’s cervix which were found to be the early stages of cervical cancer, stage 1.

Leanne was referred to hospital where all the cancerous cells were successfully removed.

Leanne, who is now mum to daughter, Daisy, aged eight, added: “Daisy is living proof of the importance of going for cervical screening.

"If I hadn’t gone for my screening, it’s hard to think about what might have happened. Daisy wouldn’t be here, that’s for sure, so she really is my miracle baby. Even though I was worried, I’m so glad I went for my smear.”

The latest NHS published figures show that three in 10 of those eligible for screening (25 to 64-year-olds) do not take up the potentially life-saving offer.

The uptake of screening in Blackburn with Darwen (63.1 per cent) and Blackpool (64.8 per cent), was significantly below the national average (68.7 per cent).

In Cumbria and the Lancashire local authority area, the percentage of women who had received screenings was lower in 2023 than in 2022.

Following a smear test, people will receive a letter explaining if human papillomavirus (HPV) was found, what the result means, and what happens next.

Most people will not have HPV, which means the risk of getting cervical cancer is very low.

Dr Neil Smith, primary care director at Lancashire and South Cumbria Cancer Alliance, said: “People who receive a cervical screening invite can contact their GP practice to arrange an appointment, while some sexual health clinics also offer screenings.

“Cervical screening is incredibly effective and can be vital in finding early abnormalities before there are even any signs of cancer.

“While cervical screening can be a little uncomfortable, the check only takes a few minutes and ultimately it could save your life.”

Could you spot the symptoms of cervical cancer?

The symptoms include:

  • Vaginal bleeding that's unusual for you – including bleeding during or after sex, between your periods or after the menopause, or having heavier periods than usual
  • Changes to your vaginal discharge
  • Pain during sex
  • Pain in your lower back, between your hip bones (pelvis), or in your lower tummy