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Stepping up to public health, September blog

Lucy November
22 September, 2017

Stepping up to public health, September blog

It’s been another hectic day. You’ve run a busy clinic and had a diary full of postnatal visits. 

The last visit of the day is to Alice.  Alice has a learning disability, and you’ve got to know her and her mum well during the pregnancy.  She’s doing fine with baby Jude with the support of mum Jane, and today is the last time you’ll visit her.  You’ve gradually covered all the ‘discharge visit’ topics and today you’re just really saying goodbye.  But wait!  There’s a topic you might not have talked with Alice about which could save her life.  She might not get to know another health professional as well as she knows you, and she takes what you say seriously. 

Cervical cancer is the most common cancer in women under 35; 726 women died of cervical cancer in 2014.  However, screening is down in all age groups, and is currently at a 19-year low, with some groups of women being particularly at risk of not attending.

A new resource from Public Health England uses infographics and films to highlight the issue and increase awareness in health professionals. 

Some groups are at higher risk of non-attendance.  Research from Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust shows that:

  • Only 63% of women aged 25-29 attended for screening in 2014
  • 12% BAME women of screening age said they had never been screened, compared to 8% of white women.  30% Asian women had never heard of screening
  • People with learning disabilities are 45% less likely to be screened for cancer compared to their counterparts without learning disabilities.
  • An NHS study in 2009 showed that uptake of cervical screening is 10 times lower for lesbian and bisexual women

 

Despite the role of midwives not being mentioned in the report, we have a significant role to play in promoting screening and therefore making every contact count.

So to return to Alice, perhaps you could show her the EasyRead guide to smear tests or the Smear Test film made by women with learning disability, for women with learning disability.  Or for women you are caring for whose first language isn’t English, who are the least likely to attend screening, the short Your Guide to Cervical Screening film is available in Arabic, Bengali, Chinese (Mandarin), Hindi, Urdu and Polish.  These resources and hundreds more are available on the RCM’s Pregnancy and Birth Information Hub for women and families, RCM Pregnapp.

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