In England, cervical screenings are offered free on the NHS to women over the age of 25 (until the age of 64). In Scotland and Wales, it starts slightly lower at 20. Since 2008, the NHS have provided vaccinations against the human papillomavirus (HPV) to girls aged 12 to 13, which helps to protect them from developing cervical cancer in the future. If, like me, you missed the HPV vaccine, attending regular cervical screenings is your best chance to catch any cell abnormalities that could develop into cancer.
We are very lucky in this country to have these services available to us. Yet 20% of women still do not attend their screenings. As young women, many of us believe we're too young to get cancer. Cervical cancer in young women is very rare, but it's certainly not unheard of - tragic stories such as Jade Goody's and, more recently, Becky Ryder and Gemma Marsh really bring the importance of regular testing home.
I turn 25 in November, but received my invitation to attend my first screening just over a month ago. I attended my screening last week and am currently awaiting the results. For me, there was no question in my mind that I would go as soon as I could. For others, I appreciate there are many reasons it might not be that easy.
Either way, this is the week when we should take the time to think about it a bit more, to educate ourselves and to encourage each other to get tested. To find out more about cervical screening there's a lot of great information on the NHS website here.