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Cervical cancer campaign highlights work of cytology labs

A cervical cancer prevention awareness campaign in January highlighted the vital work of the Trust’s cytology laboratory in helping prevent cervical cancer in our region.

Cytology comes under the laboratory medicine directorate and the screening service covers one of the biggest geographical regions in England, receiving samples from all of North Yorkshire, Hull and East Riding and also Northern and North East Lincolnshire. The team processes around 95,000 tests a year, playing a valuable role in the prevention of cervical cancer in the region.

Cervical cancer is the most common cancer in women under the age of 35 with nine women diagnosed with the cancer every day. Three quarters of cervical cancers can be prevented by cervical screening, and January’s campaign emphasised the fact that that screening in England is at a 20 year low.

Trevor Hair, Head Biomedical Scientist for the cytology laboratory, explained: “We’ve seen a steady decrease in the number of cases of cervical cancer throughout the country over the past few years. Unfortunately the number of women attending for cervical screening has dropped off in the last two to three years.

“Cervical cancer is preventable, and if caught at an early stage by screening, can be treated. However, this requires women to go along to their GP to have a simple test.

“The samples are analysed microscopically by the laboratory and any abnormal cells identified – if necessary the laboratory will also analyse for the presence of Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), which causes 99 percent of all cervical cancers. It’s crucial that people are tested as the biggest cause of cervical cancer comes from women who have failed to attend an appointment and have missed early diagnosis.”

Reasons women don’t attend are wide ranging including embarrassment, fear, not thinking it’s important, not understanding what it’s for and simply putting it off.  It is estimated that if all eligible women attended screening regularly 83 percent of cancer deaths could be prevented.

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