Maman Poulet | Clucking away crookedly through media, politics and life

Focus on Cervical Cancer Prevention

January 21st, 2010 · 3 Comments · Feminism, Lesbian, LGBT, Social Policy

Next week is European Cervical Cancer Prevention Week. There are a number of developments recently in screening for cervical cancer – some I’ve previously written about which have concerned me but it’s vitally important that women continue to be screened for the disease.  (And for the many lovely lesbians who read this blog –  I know there are a few of ye – please read all the way to the end of this post 😀 – no switching off allowed!)

The Prevention Week is organised by the European Cervical Cancer Association (ECCA) and events will be taking place all over Europe to raise awareness about the disease.

The Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA) has partnered with CervicalCheck, the National Cervical Screening Programme, to promote the week in Ireland and to ensure that Irish women become better informed about cervical cancer.

If you are out getting your hair done next week you may get information on cervical cancer from your hairdresser as the IFPA have partnered with the Irish Hairdressers Federation

All 330 member salons of the IHF will help distribute Pearl of Wisdom campaign badges and information leaflets about CervicalCheck, the national cervical screening service, to woman during their hair appointment for the duration of the Prevention Week. It is hope that women will be encouraged to make an appointment when invited by Cervicalcheck to organise their cervical smear test.

  • Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer in women under 44 worldwide.
  • Cervical cancer is the most common cancer in women under 44 in Ireland
  • In Ireland 50% of all cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed in women aged 46 and under. Average age of death from cervical cancer in Ireland is 56
  • Mortality rates from cervical cancer have increased 1.5% per year since 1978.

I should also point out that finally lesbian women are being encouraged to have cervical smears, something that I’ve spoken about and campaigned for over 15 years. (Many doctors in Ireland had previously denied that lesbian women needed to have smear tests) There are to be a series of information sessions for lesbian women organised by Cervicalcheck and I’ll post a link to these when I get more information.

Guidelines on the issue of testing women who have sex with women/lesbians have been issued by Cervical Check.

4.3.9 Women who have sex with women (WSW)

Cervical screening recommendations do not differ for WSW/ lesbian women regardless of their history of sex with men. Cervical neoplasia and CIN lesions can be found in WSW who report no history of sex with men. Transmission of HPV requires only skin to skin contact. Furthermore sexual practices among WSW could potentially allow for intra-vaginal deposition of HPV both through digital-vaginal contact and shared sex aids. Studies show that most WSW (53-99 per cent) have had sex with men and that many (21-30 per cent) continue to have sex with men. Among these women, acquisition of HPV from male partners presumably occurs at a rate per contact similar to that of the heterosexual population. Women infected via this route could serve as a source for subsequent viral transmission to their female partners (Marrazzo et al, 2001).

So whomever you have sex with, or not,  smear tests for women are available and women are going to be invited to take them – we need to encourage each other to take up the appointments and make sure we get tested and look after ourselves. And we need to ensure the funding for the screening and the high standards remain in place.  All young women should be able to be vaccinated against HPV too, not just 12 year olds.

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