As it has been Cervical Cancer Prevention Week, I've seen a few posters publicising it and it has got me thinking about my own experiences of cancer, how it touched my life and the resources available to us, that aid the prevention of this devastating disease.
Since 2008 there has been a national programme to vaccinate girls aged 12 to 13 against the human papilloma virus (HPV) which is thought to be behind 99% of cervical cancer cases. That is a shocking statistic and potentially, this vaccine could prevent 70% of the 1,120 deaths that cervical cancer claim every year.
The moment I heard about this jab my ears pricked up. I lost my Mum in 2006 to Endometrial cancer (Cancer of the womb), She was only 56, a woman in her prime, full of life, a beautiful, hard working, strong woman, who's death has devastated our family.
I will never get over losing my Mum, and nothing will ever bring her back, but there is something that can be done to possibly protect my daughters from getting the same disease, a disease that took the life of their Grandmother, they adored. So, my Girls are vaccinated.
My 12 year old recently had her HPV jab. They are routinely given in schools, but as she is home schooled, I had to make my own arrangements for her to get the jab. It was very easy to organise. I rang my local doctors surgery and they put me in touch with the Mid Essex HPV Vaccination team. They were marvellous, and as we live rural, they even came right out of their way to my local clinic. No wonder they were rated 2nd in the country! The vaccine consists of three jabs given to girls, over a period of 12 months. All three are needed for the vaccine to work, so it is important for the girls to finish the course.
I spotted the above cervical screening poster on Facebook this morning and its no nonsense approach really grabbed my attention, especially as I have lost my own Mum to Cancer. These are the type of campaigns that I like, the posters and TV campaigns that tell it, exactly how it is. When I gave up smoking 5 years ago, it was a graphic TV advert that encouraged me stop. At the time lots of people disagreed with the disturbing images but I bet I wasn't the only person who gave up because of it!
The above poster has proven to be equally controversial. It has received criticism because of its hard hitting approach. People argued that it holds a very negative message and that Mums who may have just received a an abnormal cells result, will be terrified. Thing is, I disagree. I think this campaign is positive in that it will prompt a lot of women to attend their smear test appointments and I also think it is pointing out that the age for cervical screening needs to be lowered once and for all.
Young Mums have no choice but to wait until they are 25 before they can get a smear test. By the time I was 25, I had three kids under 5 years old, but I was lucky because we were offered smear tests after we had kids back then. So, I had peace of mind. Back in the early 90's a close Friend of mine had an abnormal smear test result, before she was 25 and had to have lazer treatment which probably saved her life. What would have happened to her if she was born a few years later and had to wait until she was 25 before she had her smear? It doesn't even bare thinking about. If this poster urges just one woman to go for her smear then it is worth it.
As for the women who can get their smear tests done and often miss their appointments, then I urge you to book yourself one today. It only takes ten minutes, and that is no exaggeration because I timed mine the last time I went, from the minute I walked in to the nurses room to the minute I walked out. It doesn't hurt, and even if it pinches a little, the pain of Cancer is much tougher to deal with, not just for you, but for everyone who loves you. That ten minutes could save your life!
So, what are your views on the HPV vaccine. I personally think that this immunisation is a step forward in the fight against combating the 2nd most common cancer in younger women. Will your Girls be having it like mine or do you have a different opinion? And what are your views on these hard hitting campaigns. Do you think they are a good idea or do they just give people a negative message?