The Health Screening Tragedy

Health Screening Tragedy

Public awareness campaigns are a regular feature of everyday life.   Not a month goes by without our attention being drawn by a headline statistic to another condition and the plight of others.

January was the month for raising awareness of the need for cervical cancer screening, but this year I kept a pretty low profile, choosing not to add my voice to the discussion.

I can’t pinpoint exactly why but I do think it was largely dictated by my mood over Christmas and New Year.

I thought I would be ok with it all as I hit those major milestones in January that reminded me of this time last year, but to be honest on reflection, I don’t think I was.

Raising awareness for causes is something which as an ex-PR I understand very well and last year, fresh out of life-changing surgery, I was happy to bang those drums, make a noise and tell all and sundry, particularly midlifers like me, to pay attention to their health.

This year, however, was different.  I quite simply wasn’t in the mood. The words weren’t there, or not different ones at least and this may have been part of the reason why I just couldn’t bring myself to blog.

Oh dear friends it’s been a rollercoaster year, both physically and mentally but I count myself lucky in so many respects, not least because I have reached my first year milestone and am now focusing on the next.  Who knew ticking off months and holding down firmly on life’s fast forward button could be so therapeutic?

I didn’t want my blog to become all about cancer, after all I started it as a celebratory landmark for my entry into the midlife years of parenting. Truth be told, however, I have realised that it ie cancer is a part of me now and I can’t avoid it and it is the telling of personal experiences, particularly when it comes to cancer where every scenario, diagnosis and treatment is so individual, that can really make a difference with these campaigns.

I have so been looking forward to the end of January that I had a completely different post planned for today but sitting down on Friday evening, nursing a welcome glass of wine and watching the news I was shocked by the reports that none of the three main health screening programmes in England for bowel, breast or cervical cancer met their targets last year and that in the case of cervical screening, tests were stockpiled still waiting to be tested.  It somehow feels wrong that on today of all days I don’t say something, however, small or even repetitive!

So all these wonderful charities like Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust that campaign tirelessly to get people to attend their screenings in the first place are let down at the back end, because results of those screenings are not reaching patients soon enough.  Shocking, bad and unacceptable on many levels.

It is great that we have these all important screening programmes available to us and that there are systems in place to measure the performance of our health service. The important bit though is in making a difference and effecting change.  After all people’s lives are at risk here.

In terms of cervical cancer, news reports over the last month said that women need to be encouraged to attend the screenings as attendance is at an all time low.  Fear, lack of time, forgetfulness, misunderstanding – these are unacceptable reasons for not attending.  Our health is our wealth and life is way too short for regrets.  I attended and still got caught out for whatever reason. But whilst one change in the normality of my cervical cells might have been missed, the next one it could be said saved my life.

Whether it is you, a family member or a friend don’t let them forget the importance of these checks which save lives and if as in the case of cervical cancer results are late ie beyond 14 days – the message is not to ignore it.  The mantra that no news is good news is not always right.  Get on the phone. Follow it up. They could be caught up in the backlog. In the meantime, today on World Cancer Day spare a second thought for all those 18 million people worldwide diagnosed with cancer last year and for those who may be receiving that devastating news today.

UK Health Screening Tragedy



  1. March 10, 2019 / 2:48 pm

    I’ve seen a few health screening ads pop up here in the U.S. as well but I don’t know the statistics of those who actually get them done. It is important to get these done though and I’m very glad to hear that you’re well! #TweensTeensBeyond

    • Jo
      March 13, 2019 / 3:03 pm

      Thanks Michelle and I look forward to checking out your new blog. x

  2. February 18, 2019 / 9:37 pm

    I can imagine it must be a like a rollercoaster for you Jo – having reached a very difficult anniversary, yet not feeling quite how you thought you might. I can also see why this kind of news drags everything up again. It’s really quite astonishing – and most definitely shocking. Why?! I’m sure you are asking yourself the same question. We all owe to ourselves to make sure we are on top of these things. No one knows that better than you and you are very brave to once again put pen to paper and share. If at least one person acts upon your words then you have done a great thing here. The following up is also something that is worth paying attention to. I found out recently that some results hadn’t made it my way. Nothing serious but the result had simply just been missed and it needed attention. I’ve been there chasing up some other results today. It doesn’t feel right but I don’t want to take any chances. I think the following up is something that we do feel uncomfortable about. Evidence shows that it’s worth it though. Thanks for doing the right thing again here in sharing. x

    • Jo
      February 28, 2019 / 2:14 pm

      We British just don’t like to make a fuss do we Nicky? Sadly, however, as these stories show we need to shrug off that embarrassment and just do it. Life is certainly too short for regrets as we all learn in some way or another every day of our lives. I am glad to hear that you are on top of everything and hope that all is well with you. Thanks for your ongoing support. X

  3. February 18, 2019 / 5:31 pm

    I know that Wales has a different screening system to England and I’m not sure if we have a back log but your message holds true. Taking responsibility for your own health is vital and that relates to chasing up screening results as well as hospital appointments and loads more. It’s so easy to get lost in the system and I have been more comfortable making a nuisance of myself chasing up things for my kids than for myself! Your message is an important one Jo and your voice is clear and strong and adds a lot to the subject. I hope you carry on talking about it when you feel you can and I, for one, will be listening. xx #TweensTeensBeyond

    • Jo
      February 28, 2019 / 2:08 pm

      Thanks Sharon, there is no more powerful PR than word of mouth and that comes from the mouth of someone who should know. Personal experience via testimonials add a lot of credence to any campaign and an authenticity to messages that might otherwise be lost, so if I can contribute to making a difference I will. Thanks for your ongoing support. I couldn’t have done it without you. x

  4. February 14, 2019 / 2:41 pm

    I wasn’t even aware of this . It’s so shocking . You’re so right following up is the way rather than assume all is fine!!
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    • Jo
      February 14, 2019 / 5:40 pm

      I feel like cervical cancer awareness is on a bit of a roll at the moment but that maybe because I am more finely tuned to it all and because sadly there have been so many bad news stories recently. Always lovely to hear that someone has shared a post so thanks for letting me know Kelly. X

  5. February 14, 2019 / 1:10 pm

    Fear, lack of time, forgetfulness, misunderstanding – you’re spot on, they’re not valid excuses and it makes me bloody cross!! You know, you went through something life-changing last Jan and to want to lie low for a bit this Jan/Feb is totally natural and normal – I think that’s what I would do too. But I’m glad you wrote this post and mentioned the health screenings are low – and I hope others read it and take action. Like you say, for many of us results may be ok this time, but maybe not the next – who knows if and when – things can change on a dime and to have the NHS there ready to screen us to help us, hopefully, get better and back to health, then how on earth can we not be grateful and bloody show up!! I hope this year brings you lots of amazingly fabulous news and your 50s become your best decade yet! Love, Lisa xx

    • Jo
      February 14, 2019 / 5:47 pm

      It is amazing how many people are fearful or dismissive of attending screenings, but I hope that the more the message is relayed that screenings do save lives and I am proof of that, there will start to be a change. It would be great to roll through this decade without anymore blips and after a quiet start to the year I am now making up for lost time. Thanks for dropping by Lisa. Xx

  6. Jennifer Bergh
    February 9, 2019 / 11:44 am

    If this post encourages even just one more person to go for screening then that would be amazing. So sorry to hear what you have been through but thankfully you went for your screening test. Im so pleased to hear that you are well, enjoy the year ahead of you. #blogcrush

    • Jo
      February 14, 2019 / 5:48 pm

      Oh I do hope so Jennifer, the more noise about the importance of women’s screening the better. Thank you for your kind wishes and I am looking forward with more optimism than this time last year for sure. Fingers crossed the good news continues. Thanks for dropping by.

  7. February 8, 2019 / 4:43 pm

    Wow. This is an important topic to discuss yet lots of people don’t really want to. Following up on testing isn’t done enough.
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    • Jo
      February 14, 2019 / 5:52 pm

      Yes I think embarrassment is a big factor not just with cancer screening but with many other health screening programmes which is a shame as the health professionals are there for our benefit and life is too short for regrets. Let’s hope there is a turning point soon.

  8. February 6, 2019 / 4:49 pm

    I was startled to hear how many women have been missing screening and shocked that in 2019 so many people aren’t attending because of embarrassment. However, I think there are other reasons that shouldn’t be ignored – the difficulty of actually getting a convenient appointment, and timing it around your period for one. I didn’t realise the issue about test results and could see myself assuming the ‘no news, good news’ thing, so it’s an important message to get out. Thanks for this, and many good wishes for 2019. #tweensteensbeyond

    • Jo
      May 9, 2019 / 4:11 pm

      Hi Beth yes the stats are always a bit of a shock and I find it quite difficult to comprehend if I am honest as I have always just viewed these screening opportunities as a no-brainer really, but of course everyone is different. Thanks for your kind wishes. x

  9. February 6, 2019 / 4:34 pm

    I can imagine in January you were going through some exhaustion over what you’ve been through with its associated trauma that you just wanted to keep your head down. Unfortunately Ireland seems to be having similar backlogs with screening and now there are thousands of women being called for retesting after six week delays on their results. All a bit terrifying for those who possibly have abnormal cell growth!

    • Jo
      May 9, 2019 / 4:12 pm

      Yes Liberty and sadly since writing this post I understand the backlog has got worse. Time is of the essence of course not least because peace of mind is hard to come by when you are waiting to hear about something of this magnitude. x

  10. February 6, 2019 / 11:13 am

    Thanks for writing this post, it is an important message to cover and if one person reads this and then acts upon it then that is really good. I’ll be sharing this post this week with #blogcrush #tweensteensbeyond

    • Jo
      May 9, 2019 / 4:13 pm

      Thanks Suzanne and for sharing it. I really appreciate it. x

  11. February 5, 2019 / 9:03 pm

    An unfortunately very necessary post. Just not acceptable, is it? #Tweeneteensbeyond

    • Jo
      May 9, 2019 / 4:13 pm

      Quite simply no. x

  12. February 5, 2019 / 7:52 pm

    I had no idea that there was a test screening back log, that really frustrates me because time is of the essence. I hope your 2019 is much, much better x

    • Jo
      May 9, 2019 / 4:14 pm

      There doesn’t seem to be a day without a health screening crisis message of some kind – it’s difficult to keep track of it all. Thanks for your kind wishes. x

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