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25 January 2012, 05:00
During the sixth European Cervical Cancer Prevention Week this week, women across Norfolk and Suffolk are being urged not to ignore their invitation for cervical screening.
Fiona Kelly, NHS Norfolk and Waveney's screening programmes lead, said: "Every year almost 3,000 women in the country are diagnosed with cervical cancer. It is the second most common cancer in women aged under 35 years.
The symptoms of cervical cancer are not always obvious and it may not cause any symptoms until it has reached an advanced stage.
Women are asked to take note of any unexpected changes in their own menstrual cycle and to see their doctor if they have unusual bleeding - particularly after intercourse or if they have not had a period for 12 months or more.
However, when it is diagnosed early, cancer of the cervix can usually be successfully treated - this is why it is so important that women take up the offer of a having a free cervical sample taken when they receive an invitation from the NHS (the familiar 'smear' test).
The cervical screening sample will also identify any viruses that make some women more likely to develop cell changes which may lead to cancer in the future. This makes it even more important to have the routine test so that, if it is found that a woman is more likely to develop cancer, then she will be offered an appropriate surveillance programme.
Women are invited for cervical screening when they reach 25 years and then every three years until the age of 50. Between the ages of 50 - 64 women will be invited to a screening every five years.
The cervical screening process is routine and women are encouraged to attend their GP to have the test carried out by an experienced and qualified practice nurse."
You can find out more about European Cervical Cancer Prevention Week at www.ecca.info