A mum-of-two from Leeds has spoken about her experience with cervical screening to help encourage others to take part in the life-saving programme.
Naggina Asaf initially ignored her screening invitations because she didn’t think she needed to go.
The 37-year-old only became sexually active after getting married, and since cervical cancer is linked to human papillomavirus (HPV), which is usually transmitted during sex, she didn’t think she was at risk.
It wasn’t until her first son was born that she realised she should get checked.
She said: “When I had my first child, I wanted to make sure I was physically and mentally healthy. I felt a responsibility to look after myself. I needed to know if I was okay.”
Cervical screening helps prevent cancer and is available for women aged 25 to 64. It involves taking a sample of cells from the cervix which is then checked for certain types of HPV.
Some strains of HPV can cause abnormal changes to cells, which, if not treated, can turn into cancer.
HPV can be transmitted through any kind of skin-to-skin contact of the genital area, not just from penetrative sex.
“I was a bit nervous before my appointment, but my experience was good,” Naggina said. “The nurse practitioner made me feel really comfortable. The test results came back fine which made me feel better."
“My mum did talk to us about a lot of things, but not cervical screening. In some cultures, it is a taboo subject. Sometimes English isn’t a person’s first language, and that can cause barriers too. We need to do everything we can to get the message out there that screening is vital in saving lives.”
In Yorkshire, one in four women don’t take part in cervical screening when invited. During the coronavirus pandemic, screening services were scaled back so healthcare professionals could focus on tackling the virus. However, many services in the region are now returning to normal.
Naggina added: “Screening is so important in finding cancer early. We need to encourage everyone to get it done.”
If you think you’ve missed a cervical screening appointment, please contact your GP.
Cervical Screening - Key Facts
- HPV is transmitted through sexual contact
- Even if you’re not sexually active at the moment, or have had the HPV vaccine, it’s still important to attend cervical screening
- HPV is very common - most people will get it at some point in their lives
- Most of the time it doesn’t cause any problems and clears up on its own
- HPV is the cause of 99.7% of cervical cancers
- Cervical screening tests for presence of HPV. If it’s positive then further tests look for abnormal cell changes in the cervix. Treating these changes can prevent cancer.