A BRIDGWATER woman has helped launch a major new campaign in the South West from Public Health England, calling on women to attend cervical screening events.

The campaign will encourage women to respond to their cervical screening invitation letter, and if they missed their last screening, to book an appointment at their GP practice.

Around 275 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer in the South West each year and around 62 women die from the disease.

It is estimated that if everyone attended screening regularly, 83 per cent of cervical cancer cases could be prevented.

Elizabeth, 28, from Bridgwater, discovered she had cervical cancer in October 2018 after attending a screening test due to abnormal bleeding between periods.

She said: “I’d only had one smear test before I was diagnosed, but after a year of what I thought were irregular periods I decided to speak to my GP.

"She thought she could see abnormal cells during a routine check-up, so I was then referred for an early screening test and received a letter shortly afterwards asking me to make an appointment to discuss my results.

“I tried to dismiss the idea that it might be bad but I will never forget the stomach-churning sickness I felt when hearing the words ‘you have cervical cancer’.

"I was offered a hysterectomy and received so much support from my family and friends when I told them what was happening.

"The operation means I can’t have any more children so I am incredibly grateful for the two children I had before I was diagnosed and I’m grateful for every day, as you never know when your time is up.

“My advice to anyone thinking about attending their cervical screening appointment would be quite simply go.

"Do not delay it and don’t wait for another reminder as it could be too late. A slightly uncomfortable 10 minutes could save your life."

The new PHE campaign provides practical information about how to make the test more comfortable and gives reassurance to women, who may be fearful of finding out they have cancer, that screening is not a test for cancer.

Regular screening, which only takes a few minutes, can help stop cervical cancer before it starts, as the test identifies potentially harmful cells before they become cancerous and ensures women get the right treatment as soon as possible.

For further information about cervical screening, please search ‘NHS Cervical Screening’ or visit www.nhs.uk/cervicalscreening.