WOMEN in the Isle of Man are being urged to take the preventative measures available to them in order to prevent cervical cancer.
Today marks the beginning of Cervical Cancer Prevention Awareness Week – a campaign which takes place throughout Europe between Sunday, January 23 and Sunday, January 29.
This year the Island's Department of Health is highlighting the importance that prevention plays in reducing the number of deaths caused by cervical cancer.
Cervical cancer, cancer of the cervix, is responsible for almost 1,000 deaths per year in the UK. Approximately 2,500 women are treated per year for invasive cervical cancer and the disease predominantly affects women in their late 30s, 70s and 80s.
Health Minister David Anderson MHK said: "The key message we continue to persevere with is that cervical cancer is a preventable disease.
"Vaccination and screening are a choice but their proven success in preventing and detecting cancer earlier leads to healthier outcomes for all.
"The decisions and actions taken by women in relation to screening or parents and young girls in relation to vaccination are crucial – these decisions can save lives.
"It's for this reason that we continue to do as much as we can to raise awareness of the two ways of preventing this all too often deadly disease."
Currently girls between the ages of 12 and 18 are eligible for the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine which, evidence suggests, will prevent 70 percent of cervical cancers.
However since the introduction of the vaccine in March last year only 70 percent have completed the course of three injections.
Some women are eligible for cervical screening, previously called a smear test, which detects abnormal cells before they become cancerous.
Again only 80 percent of women who are eligible for this have accepted the invitation.
Jacqui Dunn, a health protection nurse at Noble's, explained: "To some extent we're very lucky that cervical cancer can be so easily prevented through something as simple as a vaccination and easily detected through screening. A very quick and simple process can literally save a life.
"Of course we appreciate that people tend not to like needles and that women may feel embarrassed at the prospect of having a cervical screening or a 'smear test' as it used to be known - but this really shouldn't deter people from at least thinking about these life saving procedures.
"At the very least I would encourage every woman and young girl or her parents who are concerned about any aspect of cervical cancer or its prevention to speak to their GP."
As part of the awareness campaign the department has produced leaflets and posters so that the public can make an informed choice on both vaccination and screening.
Further information is available from the Department of Health website, by telephoning 01624 642639 or by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.