Coronation Street character's death brings need for cervical screening to national attention

Public Health Wales is encouraging women to attend regular cervical screenings amidst the national attention brought to cervical cancer through the death of beloved Coronation Street character Sinead Osbourne.

While television’s purpose is largely to entertain, the medium is arguably at its most powerful when it also seeks to inform and influence. 

Tonight’s episode of the long-running soap opera Coronation Street will see Sinead Osbourne die from cervical cancer. And while fans mourn the passing of the popular TV character, the storyline also helps to bring the need for regular cervical screening to the attention of the public.

This is particularly apt at a time when cervical screening uptake, an NHS programme that checks the health of your cervix in order to help prevent cancer, is at its lowest in two decades in the UK.

Every year around 160 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer in Wales. It is the most common type of cancer in women under the age of 35. According to research from Cervical Screening Wales, over a third of women aged 25-29 years old are not attending cervical screening.

Women that attend cervical screening when they are invited at age 25 are more likely to continue to go to screenings in the future, therefore significantly reducing their risk of developing cervical cancer.

In order to encourage attendance, Cervical Screening Wales is working to optimise the uptake and improve access to screening, including launching a social media campaign in March of 2019 called #loveyourcervix. 

Dr Ardiana Gjini, Consultant Lead for Cancer Screening Programmes for Public Health Wales, said:

“Cervical screening saves lives. By not attending your  appointment you are missing the chance of preventing cervical cancer from developing, or picking it up at an early stage when it is more treatable.

“We know that about a third of women eligible for cervical screening are not taking up the offer from Public Heath Wales for screening. Sadly, it is these women, and particularly women under 40, that are also at higher risk of developing cervical cancer.

“Most pre-cancerous and cancerous cervical changes identified through screening are treatable and curable. Our NHS screening programme is one of the highest quality programmes across the world. The test doesn’t take much more than five minutes and we always ensure women feel like they’re being treated with respect.”

In September 2018, Wales became the first UK nation to fully adopt high-risk human papillomavirus (HPV) testing as the first test done on every cervical screening sample. This has been proven to be a more reliable and sensitive method to help prevent women from developing cervical cancer.