Rachel is backing Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust during Cervical Screening Awareness Week in order to reduce confusion about HPV, and help everyone feel comfortable with their cervical screening results.

The number of service users coming to the charity has doubled over the last few years, in line with HPV primary screening being introduced through the UK. For many, the first time they saw the letters HPV was in their results letter.

Cervical cancer is rare with 3,200 diagnoses every year while HPV, the cause of the disease, is extremely common, affecting 8 in 10 in their lifetime.

The body will normally clear the infection without it causing harm, however lack of awareness of the virus means many who have HPV fear they have cancer.

Cervical screening in England now uses HPV primary screening which is a more sensitive and accurate test than the previous testing method of looking for cell changes. It helps find those at higher risk of cervical cancer earlier. As a result, more women are learning they have the virus.

Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust has warned that, unless HPV stigma and confusion is tackled, years of work to remove stigma in cervical screening risks being undone and thousands needlessly experience these feelings.

HPV has been the most popular topic on their expert clarification service for the last two years and 2nd most popular topic on their Helpline. The charity’s support services have also seen an increase in health anxiety relating to HPV.

During Cervical Screening Awareness Week (14-20 June), the charity is encouraging conversation and sharing experiences about the virus in order to reduce isolation and anxiety.

Rachel is also using this week to highlight the importance of women attending their cervical screening tests.

Rachel said:

“We need to do more to encourage women to take up their cervical screening tests.

“I know what it is like to go through a cervical smear test, and it is not comfortable. For some it will be embarrassing, and it is sometimes painful, but those few minutes can save lives, so I would encourage all women to take up their smear tests.”

“10 years ago, I had a cervical screening test which picked up some abnormalities. If they’d been left untreated, it could have developed into something much more serious.

“This Cervical Screening Awareness Week, we need to raise awareness of the fact that women just aren’t attending their cervical smear tests. We must change this.

“Yes, the smear tests are uncomfortable, can sometimes hurt and are embarrassing, but these few minutes can save lives.

“Please attend your smear test appointments and encourage your loved ones and friends too as well. This test could save your life.”