Women between the ages of 25 and 64 are invited for regular cervical screenings where a healthcare professional looks at the health of the cervix to detect any cell changes or abnormalities. However, in recent years the number of women attending their cervical screen has fallen, with women between 25-29 having the lowest attendance rates. This is deeply concerning as over 3000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year and 99.8% of those cases are preventable. Prevention is always easier than curing, and the earlier you are aware of any cell changes, the easier it is to treat.
Why do some women not attend their cervical screenings?
One of our general practitioners, Dr Belinda Griffiths, has found that in her experience women don’t attend their cervical screenings for a number of reasons including: difficulties with taking time off work for a GP appointment, fear of embarrassment, and fear of the process being uncomfortable or painful.
However, to combat these concerns, the NHS has launched at-home HPV kits. Dr Griffiths explains how they work – “The HPV test is highly sensitive so it separates out those who are HPV-positive and HPV-negative. Those who are HPV-negative will be considered ‘low risk’ for cervical cancer and will be asked to do a future test. Those who are HPV-positive will be deemed ‘high risk’ and be asked to attend for follow-up with a clinician whereby they will conduct a cervical screening to check the health of their cervix and investigate if any abnormal cells are present.”
These new tests are the same process as at-home STI tests whereby a simple swab collects the sample from the vagina. Having the option of this sort of test at home removes the fear some women may have surrounding the slightly more intrusive cervical screen.
What is HPV?
HPV (human papillomavirus) is a common virus passed on via skin-to-skin contact, usually through genital contact. There are many types of HPV, most of which are harmless, don’t usually cause any symptoms and the infection will go away on its own. However, others are deemed ‘high risk’ as they can persist and cause cell changes which can lead to cancer. It is thought that these ‘high risk’ HPV strains are responsible for around 80% of cervical cancer cases, making the detection of HPV all the more important.
How can you prevent HPV?
You can be protected from certain HPV strains through vaccination. There are two HPV vaccines currently available in the UK: Gardasil which protects against 4 strains of HPV used in the NHS and the vaccine used here at the Fleet Street Clinic, Gardasil-9, which protects against 9 of the high-risk HPV strains.
When can you be vaccinated against HPV?
The NHS now routinely offers the Gardasil vaccine to girls and boys around age 12/13, before the age people generally become sexually active. However, the vaccination programme only came into full force in 2019, meaning many people are currently unvaccinated. It should be pointed out that adults can get vaccinated at any age and even if you have already been exposed to HPV, the vaccine can still offer protection against other strains to which you have not yet been exposed.
It is a particularly good idea for people to get vaccinated before they attend university or before they go travelling on a ‘gap year’, as these are typically times where young people are more sexually active and therefore more likely to be exposed to HPV.
It is important to note that getting the HPV vaccination most certainly doesn’t mean missing or not participating in HPV tests or cervical screenings. A combination of these preventative measures gives you the highest possible chance of preventing cervical cancer.
What is HPV?
Human Papillomavirus, or HPV, is the name of a group of viruses with around 200 different types, that is most commonly passed on via genital contact.
Although HPV is highly common, 90% of HPV infections go away by themselves and do not cause any harm. Most people with HPV never develop symptoms or health problems.
However, it is possible for HPV infections to persist and cause cellular change in your body. This can lead to:
- Cancer of the cervix, vulva, and vagina in women
- Precancerous lesions in men and women
- Genital warts in men and women
- Head and neck cancers in men and women
HPV vaccines have a well-established role in preventing cervical cancers as well as these other aforementioned conditions.
Who Should Be Vaccinated against HPV?
In theory, HPV vaccines are best given to young people before they become sexually active, and therefore before they can be exposed to HPV.
Individuals who are already sexually active might also benefit as they may not have yet acquired all of the HPV strains covered by the vaccine. Patients aged under 16 can only be vaccinated with their parents present.
Why Boys should receive the HPV Vaccine
- About 15% of UK girls who are eligible for vaccination are currently not receiving both doses. This figure is much higher in some areas
- Most older women in the UK have not had the HPV vaccination
- Men may have sex with women from other countries which have no vaccination programme
- Men who have sex with men are not protected by the girls’ programme
- The cost of treating HPV-related diseases is high: treating anogenital warts alone in the UK is estimated to cost £58 million a year, while the additional cost of vaccinating boys has been estimated to cost about £20 million a year
Source: HPV Action
With November being Mouth Cancer Awareness month, it is important to highlight the signs and symptoms of mouth cancer.
During a dental appointment, your dentist will naturally look for abnormalities within the mouth and these include signs of oral cancer. It is important that in between dental appointments you also take notice of what is going on inside your mouth. If you notice any changes is it essential you tell your dentist or doctor immediately.
Mouth cancer can develop in most parts of the mouth, including the lips, tongue, gums, cheek and the throat. If it is caught early, the chances of surviving mouth cancer are nine out of ten – those odds are pretty good, and that’s why early detection is so important.
– If in doubt, get checked out.
It can be hard to spot symptoms of mouth cancer, which is why it is important to regularly attend your dental appointments. Your dentist can perform a check-up and look for slight abnormalities that you might otherwise miss. If anything is found, your dentist will provide onward referral to a specialist for further investigation.
Given that early detection is so crucial for survival, it’s extremely important that we all know what to look out for. In between dental appointments you should look out for changes in your mouth health that could indicate mouth cancer.
Signs & Symptoms of Mouth Cancer:
Three signs and symptoms not to ignore are:
- Ulcers which do not heal within three weeks.
- Red and white patches in the mouth; or
- Unusual lumps or swellings in the mouth or head and neck area.
If you notice anything unusual in your mouth, it’s advisable to make an appointment with your dentist.
Checking for Mouth Cancer:
When checking for signs of mouth cancer you should follow the following routine:
Head and neck
Check if both sides look the same and search for any lumps, bumps or swellings that are only on one side of the face. Feel and press along the sides and front of your neck being alert to any tenderness or lumps to the touch.
Pull down your lower lip and look inside for any sores or changes in colour. Use your thumb and forefinger to feel the lip for any unusual lumps, bumps or changes in texture. Repeat this on the upper lip.
Use your finger to pull out your cheek so that they can see inside. Look for red, white or dark patches.
Then place your index finger inside your cheek, with your opposing thumb on the outside gently squeeze and roll the cheek to check for any lumps, tenderness or ulcers, repeat this action on the other cheek.
The roof of the mouth
With your head tilted back and mouth open wide, your dentist will look to see if there are any lumps or if there is any change in colour. They will run their ﬁnger on the roof of your mouth to feel for any lumps.
Examine your tongue, looking at the surface for any changes in colour or texture.
Stick out your tongue or move it from one side to another, again looking for any swelling, change in colour or ulcers. Finally, take a look at the underside of the tongue by placing the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth.
The floor of the mouth
Look at the floor of the mouth for changes in colour that are different than normal. Press your finger along the floor of your mouth and underside of your tongue to feel for any unusual lumps, swellings or ulcers.
If you find anything unusual in any of these areas, or are unsure of anything, visit your dentist or doctor as soon as possible.
The best ways to prevent mouth cancer:
- Cut down on alcohol consumption;
- Cut down or stop smoking;
- Getting the HPV vaccine, Gardasil 9; and
- Enjoy a healthy diet.
You can book a dental appointment with Temple Dental.
MARCH IS OVARIAN CANCER AWARENESS MONTH
A vital month raising awareness of ovarian cancer to improve early diagnosis to save lives.
More women died from ovarian cancer in the UK (4,227) than from all other gynaecological cancers combined in 2016, according to Cancer Research UK. However, worryingly one in five women in the UK (22%) mistakenly believe that a smear test (cervical screening) can detect ovarian cancer, according to research Target Ovarian Cancer carried out with YouGov.
We are committed to raising awareness of the disease.
Speak to one of our female GP’s about any concerns you may have about your gynaecological history and your families medical history. During your consultation, we will also conduct a breast check and pelvic examination.
“In the UK a woman dies every two hours from ovarian cancer, but the earlier the diagnosis the better the chances are” Professor Hani Gabra – Director of Ovarian Cancer Action Research Centre
What is ovarian cancer?
Ovarian cancer is when abnormal cells in the ovary begin to grow and divide in an uncontrolled way and eventually form a growth (tumour). Every year 7,300 women in the UK are diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
Who can get ovarian cancer?
The risk of developing ovarian cancer increases as you get older. The most common type of ovarian cancer is epithelial ovarian cancer, this usually occurs in women older than 50 years old. We don’t know exactly what causes epithelial ovarian cancer. But some factors may increase or reduce the risk.
Factors that increase the risk include:
- getting older
- inherited faulty genes
- having breast cancer before
Factors that may reduce the risk include:
- taking the contraceptive pill
- having children
Ovarian Cancer is notoriously difficult to spot.
With non-specific symptoms in the early stages. It is hoped that this new method of early diagnosis could help save lives.
How to recognise the symptoms of Ovarian Cancer:
Early Ovarian Cancer symptoms can be similar to those of other conditions, these some to watch out for:
- Persistent bloating – not bloating that comes and goes
- Pain in the lower stomach and pelvis
- Difficulty Eating and feeling full quickly
- Back pain
- Change in bowel habits
What should you do if you’re worried?
It is important to contact your GP as soon as possible if you spot any symptoms that are abnormal for you.
We understand talking about your concerns and having an examination can be quite worrying and for some, embarrassing, therefore, to make you as comfortable as possible, all our well woman services are booked with a female GP.
There is an Ovarian Cancer Blood Test – CA 125 available
Levels of protein CA125 in the blood are recognised as a marker for ovarian cancer. This simple and effective blood test will detect early stages of ovarian cancer. You can either have this as a stand-alone blood test or add it on to your medical for an additional cost. Please inquire for prices..
For more information about Fleet Street Clinic’s Women’s Health Services.
You can also book a GP appointment online.
OVARIAN CANCER AWARENESS MONTH
“In the UK a woman dies every two hours from ovarian cancer, but the earlier the diagnosis the better the chances” Professor Hani Gabra – Director of Ovarian Cancer Action Research Centre.
March marks Ovarian Cancer Awareness month and, at Fleet Street Clinic, we are working to support this important cause, spread awareness and highlight symptoms to help increase early detection.
Ovarian cancer is a common type of cancer with 1 in every 50 women in the UK being diagnosed in their lifetime.
Like with any other type of cancer, early detection saves lives. Your outcome depends on the stage of the cancer when it was diagnosed. This means how big it is and whether it has spread to other areas of the body. The earlier it is detected the easier it is to treat.
Unfortunately, the problem is Ovarian Cancer is notoriously difficult to spot.
Symptoms tend to be non-specific in the early stages which means it can often be mistaken for more common conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome. This can often lead to delays in diagnosing and increase the chance that the cancer will be identified at a later stage which can have an impact on your survival rate.
When diagnosed in the early stages 9 in 10 women will survive, which is why it is so important to be aware of your body and the symptoms of ovarian cancer.
HOW TO RECOGNISE THE SYMPTOMS OF OVARIAN CANCER
Early Ovarian Cancer symptoms can be similar to symptoms of other conditions. If you are experiencing any combination of these symptoms, it is important to seek medical advice to rule out Ovarian Cancer:
- Feeling full quickly
- Bloating or an increase in the size of your abdomen
- Needing to wee more frequently
- Loss of appetite
- Pain in the lower stomach and pelvis
- Unexplained weight loss
- Unexplained tiredness
- Changes to your bowel movements or symptoms similar to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
You should contact a GP as soon as possible if:
- You frequently feel bloated (more than 12 times a month)
- You are experiencing symptoms of ovarian cancer that do not go away
- You have a family history of ovarian cancer and are concerned about your risk
The general advice is that if something doesn’t feel right and someone new is happening to your body which is not normal for you, go see a doctor just in case.
It is important to know that the risk of Ovarian Cancer increases with age. You are at greater risk of Ovarian Cancer if you are over the age of 50 and so regular Ovarian Cancer screenings are a good idea. Perhaps including one within your annual health review would be beneficial for peace of mind.
Currently, there is no national ovarian cancer screening programme in place, however, there is the option of private healthcare.
This week is Cervical Cancer Prevention Week (#CCPW) and we’d like to remind all our patients that cervical cancer can be fatal – It is the most common cancer in women aged 35 and under.
Current UK statistics state:
> 2 women lose their lives to the disease every day
> 9 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer every day
> 75% of cervical cancers can be prevented by a smear test
Thousands of lives can be saved every year with better awareness and understanding of the symptoms of cervical cancer. Regular smear tests and having the HPV vaccine can dramatically decrease your chances of developing cervical cancer and will also assist in early detection.
Smear tests are extremely important and a major contributing factor to lowering the number of cervical cancer cases seen each year. On average, cervical screening helps save the lives of approximately 4,500 women in England every year, however, 1 in 4 women still don’t attend their smear test.
Smear tests are a method of detecting abnormal cells on the cervix, (the entrance to the womb). The detection and removal of abnormal cells can prevent cervical cancer from developing. As with all cancers, the earlier a problem is detected, the better the patient’s outcome.
Information on Cervical Cancer
Cervical cancer is not thought to be hereditary.
Cervical screening is not a test for cancer as screening programmes help to prevent cancer by detecting early abnormalities in the cervix, so they can be treated. If these abnormalities are left untreated they can lead to cancer of the cervix (the neck of the womb).
For more information: www.jostrust.org.uk
November is Mouth Cancer Awareness Month, and Fleet Street Clinic has collaborated with the charity campaign MouthCancer.org to help raise awareness of the disease.
For more information about Mouth Cancer, you can read the Q&A’s below.
What is Mouth cancer?
Mouth cancer relates to cancer found in the lips, tongue, cheek and throat.
There are, on average, almost 7,800 new cases of mouth cancer diagnosed in the UK each year. The number of new cases of mouth cancer is on the increase, and in the UK has increased by over half in the last decade alone.
Who is at risk?
Mouth cancer is twice as common in men than in women, though an increasing number of women are being diagnosed with the disease. Age is a factor, with people over the age of 40 more likely to be diagnosed, though more young people are now being affected than previously.
People with mouth cancer are more likely to die than those having cervical cancer or melanoma skin cancer. Prognosis is good if the disease is caught early.
What can cause mouth cancer?
Although mouth cancer can affect anybody, around 91% of all diagnoses are linked to lifestyle. This means that by amending our lifestyle choices, we can help cut the chances of developing mouth cancer.
There are many known contributors to mouth cancer:
Many cases of mouth cancer are linked to tobacco and alcohol.
If tobacco and alcohol are consumed together the risk is even greater.
- Over-exposure to sunlight can also increase the risk of cancer of the lips.
- Poor diet is linked to a third of all cancer cases. Book a Dietitian Consultation
- Experts suggest the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), transmitted through oral sex, could overtake tobacco and alcohol as the main risk factor within the coming decade. Book Your HPV Vaccine
What is the link between HPV and cancer?
There’s growing evidence that an increasing proportion of cancer is caused by HPV infection in the mouth. Around 1 in 4 mouth cancers and 1 in 3 throat cancers are HPV-related, but in younger patients, most throat cancers are now HPV-related.
HPV doesn’t directly give you cancer, but it causes changes in the cells it’s infected (for example, in the throat or cervix) and these cells can then become cancerous.
The HPV vaccine, Gardasil 9 is available at Fleet Street Clinic for both girls and boys. The vaccine was developed to fight cervical cancer, but it is likely that it’ll also help to reduce the rates of mouth cancer.
It is advisable to give the HPV vaccine before sexual activity starts to get the best protection. The underlying principle being there has been no exposure to any HPV strains yet. You can, however, receive the vaccination later on in life, this is down to personal choice. We’d recommend a GP consultation to discuss the HPV vaccine prior to booking.
What are the signs of mouth cancer?
Mouth cancer can appear in different forms and can affect all parts of the mouth, tongue and lips. Symptoms of mouth cancer include:
- A painless mouth ulcer that does not heal normally
- White or red patch in the mouth or on the tongue
- Any unusual lumps or swellings that linger
- 1 or more mouth ulcers that don’t heal after 3 weeks
- Pain when swallowing
- A feeling as though something’s stuck in your throat
Be mouth aware and look for changes in the mouth:
It is important to visit your dentist or your GP if these areas do not heal within three weeks.
How can mouth cancer be detected early?
Mouth cancer can often be spotted in its early stages by your dentist during a thorough mouth examination. If mouth cancer is recognised early, then the chances of a cure are good.
It is also advised to self-check regularly for any noticeable changes in your mouth, the inside of your cheeks, the front and sides of your neck, colour and texture changes of your tongue, changes to your lips and finally, lumps and swellings on your head and neck.
How can I keep my mouth healthy?
- It is important to visit your dentist regularly, as often as they recommend, even if you wear dentures. This is especially important if you smoke and drink alcohol.
- When brushing your teeth, look out for any changes in your mouth, and report any red or white patches, or ulcers, that have not cleared up within three weeks.
- When exposed to the sun, be sure to use a good protective sun cream, and put the correct type of barrier cream on your lips.
- A good diet, rich in vitamins A, C and E, provides protection against the development of mouth cancer. Plenty of fruit and vegetables help the body to protect itself, in general, from most cancers.
- Cut down on your smoking and drinking.