Gemma Cairney Exclusive: ‘For Me A Cervical Screening Isn’t Scary, It’s Life-Saving’

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by Arianna Chatzidakis |

The number of women attending cervical screenings has fallen to a 20-year low, with one in four eligible women (those aged 25 – 64) in the UK not attending their test when invited. That's a pretty shocking statistic to swallow, considering that 2,600 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer in England each year, and around 690 women die from the disease.

For Presenter and Broadcaster Gemma Cairney, these statistics hit close to home. Speaking to Grazia, Cairney revealed: 'I lost a friend to cancer, it began as cervical cancer and then spread to the rest of her body. It's gut-wrenchingly, inexplicably sad. She was an amazing force of nature.

'I’ve had a few cervical screenings now as I'm in my mid 30s. I actively go when invited because I think it’s important. My last one was last year, and while a cervical screening is obviously not a fun experience, I didn't find it uncomfortable or painful. I know some women may get anxious about their cervical screening, but my last test was an in-and-out job, maximum ten minutes including waiting time and the nurse talking me through the procedure. Once the speculum was inserted, she took a sample, and then it was done and I got on with my day.'

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Photography: Alex James

There are a number of reasons why women aren’t getting screened, from feeling embarrassed or worried about the test, to not knowing why they need to attend. But some simply feel they don't have the time to go. However, this simple, short test can be slotted into the busiest of schedules: 'I live a very full, busy, active, wild, fun, career and travel-filled life, but it makes me feel happier knowing that I'm taking the time to look after my health,' Cairney stated.

When asked what she would say to someone who was worried that the screening may be painful, Cairney stated: 'I personally don’t find cervical screening painful, although I know some people find it uncomfortable. If you chat to your nurse, she’ll be able to suggest things to make your screening more comfortable. Don’t forget, you are in control and can stop at any time.'

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Photography: Alex James

This is particularly important advice for anyone who has a vulval pain condition or if you have experienced sexual violence and find the idea of going for a cervical screening daunting. Nurses are trained in how to make the experience easier and more comfortable, so it's important that you tell them.

Cairney added, 'When you unpick the layers [of why so many women don’t attend screenings], I think it has something to do with the way women feel about their bodies in general. We don’t feel like our health and bodies are important or at the top of our priority list. Everything else seems more important, whether it’s our careers or image. But we have a responsibility to look after ourselves and our bodies.

'We really should make the most of the NHS screening programme. The fact that we can go for free for a test that takes just a few minutes and which can help prevent cancer is incredible. There's something very special about a woman’s body, and so we should do our best to try and protect it.'

Cervical Screening Saves Lives. Don’t ignore your cervical screening invite and encourage the people that you love to make an appointment with their GP if they are overdue a test. Search ‘NHS cervical screening' or click here for more information. #CervicalScreeningSavesLives

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