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In the UK, there are around 3,200 new cases of cervical cancer every year, or 9 every day. If diagnosed at an early stage, there is a high chance that it can be cured. Thousands of cases of cervical cancer are prevented every year due do screening – yet millions of women across the country are still skipping their smear tests. Cervical Cancer Prevention Week, which takes place 20-26 January, helps to shed a light on the importance of routine checks.

Cervical cancer is the second-most common cancer in women under thirty-five, with thousands of women in the UK diagnosed with the disease each year. Cervical cancer however is highly preventable, with the recent introduction of HPV vaccination programmes hoping to cut the number of cases down even further. This has caused something of a revolution in the medical world as it provides the first effective prevention against cervical cancer.

The HPV vaccine is available on the NHS but only for girls and only within a very limited age group.

Unfortunately, HPV (the Human Papilloma Virus) is both very infectious and very harmful – in 1983, German virologist Harold zur Hausen discovered that HPV causes cervical cancer. Since then it has been established that testing for the presence of HPV offers a better screening test for cervical cancer than the “Pap” test (or “Pap” smear, as it’s commonly known in the US).

The “Pap” test – which gets its name from Dr George Papanicolaou, who invented it in the 1920s alongside Dr. Aurel Babeș, is a procedure that uses a small brush or spatula to gently remove cells from the cervix so they can be examined under a microscope for cervical cancer or cell changes that may lead to cervical cancer. It is not a test for cancer but to pick up its early signs.

Looking out for symptoms

Cervical cancer is caused when abnormal cells in the lining of the cervix (the entrance to the womb from the vagina) grow in an uncontrolled way.

It often has no symptoms in its early stages.

If symptoms do occur, the most common tend to be unusual vaginal bleeding, which can occur during/after sex, in between periods or after the menopause.

Abnormal bleeding doesn't mean that you definitely have cervical cancer, but it’s worth having it investigated by a doctor so they can determine the cause.

The HPV test

In England, the Cervical Screening Test it is offered to women aged 25 to 49 every three years and those aged 50 to 64 every five years.

Though a similar procedure to a Pap smear test, it is designed to look for HPV infection (using the sample of cells taken from the cervix).

A centralised NHS cervical screening programme has existed in the UK since 1988, but HPV screening has only recently been introduced in England and Wales – and is yet to be rolled out across Scotland and Ireland.

There was a review to lower the age at which cervical screening test is offered to women in the UK, following the publicity surrounding the death of reality television star Jade Goody from cervical cancer in 2009. Evidence however suggested that it was not as effective in women under 25 years old, as it’s still common to have changes in the cells of your cervix when you’re younger.

The importance of routine health checks.

More than 3,200 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer every year in the UK; and according to charity Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust, around 99.7% of all cases are caused by high-risk HPV. Nearly 900 women die from the disease annually.

Figures, however, show that millions of women are skipping their smear tests.

In fact, a survey by Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust of more than 2,000 women in the UK revealed this figure to be 1 in 4 women – rising to 1 in 3 among those aged 25 to 29.

Embarrassment about body shape is constantly cited as a reason why many choose to avoid smear tests, while a lack of understanding about the importance of screening still permeates.

Cervical smears to test for cancer, however, are an effective screening programme if they are carried out frequently enough.

In most countries apart from the UK however, the recommended frequency of testing is once per year, and that is what we recommend in our clinics.

Come talk to us

At Doctorcall, we offer routine health checks for women in our private clinics on Harley Street in London, and St Ann’s Square, Manchester, where we have advanced on-site facilities for testing and diagnosis to give prompt results.

Embarrassment should never, ever get in the way, and our experienced doctors will always be at hand to make sure that your visit is as comfortable as possible and so you are fully aware of what the procedure will involve from start to finish.

We can also provide advice on the choice of HPV treatment. It is believed that with HPV vaccination the risks of cervical cancer and the need for smear tests may be eradicated altogether.

To find out more about our Well-Woman Screen service or if you want to know more about cervical smear tests or HPV Vaccination visit www.doctorcall.co.uk or call us on 0344 257 0345.

This week is Sexual Health Awareness Week, designed to ignite conversations on sexual health and the stigmas surrounding it, while sharing advice and important information with the people who need it. The theme this year is relationships, sex and disability. At Doctorcall, our sexual health clinics in London and Manchester provide a range of sexual health services, including private STD testing, providing you with advice and helping you to take charge of your health.

Sexual health is important to both men and women, yet sex remains an incredibly difficult topic to talk about for a lot of people, raising feelings of embarrassment and awkwardness. Campaigns such as Sexual Health Awareness Week help to shed light on the subject, whether it’s by promoting safe sex, sharing information about sexually transmitted infections (STIs) or promoting the importance of testing. 

In 2018, there were 447,694 diagnoses of STIs made in England, a 5% increase since 2017. London has the highest rate of STIs in England, with rates of new STI cases more prevalent in men (1,623 per 100,000) than women.

A discrete and supportive service

Many people with sexually transmitted infections do not get symptoms. If left untreated, however, STIs can affect your health, which means the sooner you get tested, the sooner you’ll be able to start treatment if it’s needed. The only way to learn if you have an STI is through a check-up.

At Doctorcall, our sexual health clinics provide a range of sexual health services, including private STD testing. We understand the importance of discretion when it comes to getting tested for STIs, and our doctors are here to help you all the way – you don’t have to give us any information you don’t want to, and you don’t even have to give us your real name.

Home testing kits

As well as in-clinic tests, we also provide STI Home Testing Kits that allow you to test for STIs in the discretion and comfort of your own home, meaning you don’t have to squeeze regular appointments into a busy work schedule.

Why book with us

Our clinics were founded in 1989 as the first private sexual health clinics in the UK. As a private clinic we often have same-day appointments available, meaning you won’t be waiting any longer that you need be. Our clinics are conveniently located, with two in London at Harley Street and London Wall as well as one in Manchester in St. Ann's Square in Manchester.

To book an appointment or to find out more about the sexual health services we provide at Doctorcall, visit:

www.doctorcall.co.uk/sexual-health/sexual-health-testing.

Follow #SHW19 to show your support for Sexual Health Awareness Week (Monday 16 September to Sunday 22 September)

Unfortunately the earliest signs of an STI (sexually transmitted infection) can often be not having any symptoms at all. Our bodies are high functioning machines that, when faced with an infection, call the immune system to attention. In many cases this a beneficial counteraction but when it comes to an STI it can result in unknowingly spreading the infection to a partner or causing significant harm to our own bodies.


With no symptoms routine testing, communicating with sexual partners on their STI status and practicing safe sex are all crucial endeavours.  


When signs do appear, symptoms can include:


  • Unusual discharge or itchiness around the genitals

  • Burning feeling when peeing

  • Rash, sore or small lumps in genital area

  • Unusual bleeding from vagina, after sex or in between periods

  • Pain and swelling of the testicles (balls)


Some STIs can not be cured but there are treatments available to ease the symptoms in these cases. Though in each case STIs are more successfully treated if detected early on. If you are sexually active with a long-term partner or not, regular testing needs to be incorporated into your routine.

Doctorcall offer quick and discreet STI home testing kits so you can keep on top of frequently checking in with your sexual health status.

Sexual intercouse STIs (sexually transmitted infections) or STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) are infections contracted and spread through sexual intercourse, while some can also pass through skin to skin genital contact. If the infection modifies the regular function of the body it is then understood as a disease.


Risk of infections or diseases may not pass your mind while getting hot under the collar with a significant other. Though the dangers are certainly real and can cause a range of health problems from mild irritations to serious long-term illnesses.


Some STIs can be easily cured with antibiotics if detected early enough, while others can have permanent repercussions if left untreated. It’s vital to keep on top of your sexual health with regular tests.


Doctorcall offer quick and discreet STI home testing kits to cut out the inconvenience of travel and ensure peace of mind from the privacy of your own home.

STIs (sexually transmitted infections) are an easy mood killer to avoid but whether you’re with a long term partner or casually dating you must confront your sexual health.  


For men and women alike the risk of sexually transmitted diseases must always be seriously considered and understood when having intercourse.


So what are the most common types of STIs?


Chlamydia

 

Chlamydia (genital chlamydia trachomatis) is a bacterial infection spread through sex or contact with infected genital fluids (semen or vaginal fluid).

 

Chlamydia is the most common bacterial STI diagnosed in England, accounting for 46.1% of all STIs diagnosed in 2015. Around 70% of infected females and 50% of males will not have any obvious signs or symptoms or they may be so mild they go unnoticed.

 

HPV (Human Papillomavirus)

 

HPV, commonly understood as genital warts, is the name for over 100 types of viruses that affect your skin and the moist membranes lining your body. Around 30 types of HPV infection can affect the genital area.

 

HPV is highly contagious and will most likely spread to every sexually active person at some point.

 

Herpes


Herpes is caused by two different but similar viruses: herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) and herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2). Both can lead to blistering sores around your vulva, vagina, cervix, anus, penis, scrotum, inner thighs, lips, mouth, throat, and in rare cases your eyes.

Herpes is an incredibly common infection that can spread from mere skin-to-skin contact, including areas that a condom doesn’t cover. Currently it’s being claimed that about 70% of the population have been infected by herpes virus or one of its close relatives.

 

Gonorrhoea

 

Gonorrhoea is caused by the bacteria Neisseris gonorrhoeae and can cause serious health issues if left untreated, including infertility for both males and females.

 

While the rates of gonorrhoea diagnosis seemed to decrease between 2005 and 2008, there has been a substantial increase each year since.

There were 3,800 diagnoses among people aged 45 and over in 2015, which is an 18.2% increase on 3,214 diagnoses in 2014.


HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus)


HIV attacks the body’s immune system, specifically the CD4 cells, often called T cells. Over time, HIV can destroy so many of these cells that the body can’t fight off infections and disease.

The UK has a relatively small HIV epidemic with an estimated 89,400 people living with HIV. The UK has made significant progress in antiretroviral treatment coverage in recent decades. 96% of those diagnosed are now accessing treatment and 94% are virally suppressed.

However, late diagnosis remains a key challenge. In 2016, 42% of diagnoses happened at a late stage of infection.


Syphilis


Syphilis is a chronic bacterial infection that can cause long term organ damage if left untreated. While Syphilis is still not a hugely common STI, diagnoses have dramatically risen in the UK over the past few years.


In 2016, there were 5,920 syphilis diagnoses - an increase of 12 per cent from the previous year (from 5,281 to 5,920) and a 97 per cent rise from 2012 (from 3,001 to 5,920)


Trichomoniasis


Trichomoniasis is the lesser known STI caused by a miniscule parasite called Trichomonas vaginalis.


Trichomoniasis is more common in women than men but is overall quite rare in the UK.