Public Health England have launched the first advertising campaign which focuses on cervical screening, encouraging women not to ignore their invitations to be tested.
It’s been suggested that younger women and women of minority ethnic backgrounds are less likely to be tested, because they’re uncomfortable with the process or they don’t feel any sense of urgency to ensure that they’re in full health.
Cervical screening can pick up any cell abnormalities that can lead to cervical cancer. The current age that women are asked to book an appointment to be tested is 25 years old. However, in recent history there have been petitions to lower the age due to reports of younger women suffering from cervical cancer.
Although there was a surge in the number of women being screened when Jade Goody died of cervical cancer in 2009 at the age of 27, recent reports have shown that these numbers have now hit a 20 year low.
The campaign, commissioned by Public Health England, is a public awareness campaign that aims to reconstruct the general perception of cervical screening. They aim to encourage more women to act on their invitations to be tested by discussing the process, spreading awareness of the benefits of being tested and reducing the stigma about the test.
It has been said that though many women understand how crucial an early cervical smear test can be in detecting cancer cells, they still refrain from taking the test due to a fear of the process, not knowing what will happen or feeling that they should meet aesthetic expectations in order to be tested.
The NHS intend to challenge this perception of the test, and eliminate common misconceptions – including fearsome ideas about the apparatus used in the test and ideas that women should shave or wax before going for a test.
What does this say about the landscape of TV and Radio?
Though we saw a 70% increase in women going for smear tests in 2009, the years before and since have represented a distinct lack of women taking the precaution. However, this is the first time that the issue will enter the public domain through television and radio.
So which has changed, the perception of the smear test, the position of popular media on discussing the female anatomy? As well as featuring a woman being reminded by people in her life to go for her test, the campaign deliberately avoids the term ‘smear test’ for fear of putting people off – officials suggested that the term was outdated and not representative of the modern screening test.
The eight week campaign will see adverts will running on TV, radio and online for the next eight weeks, stressing that screening is essentially a health check for the cervix – a completely normal procedure.
As well as a positive move for women’s health generally, the campaign serves as a benchmark in women’s history, that their health issues are being desexualised and destigmatised. The advert will not be governed by a watershed time, but will be served openly in the media.
In this way, the campaign is a ground-breaking effort to not only reconstruct ideas relating to women’s health, but to reconstruct the representation of women within the media, in equal measures. The campaign tackles the motif of women being ashamed of their bodies, highlighting that modesty and health are not mutually exclusive.
Words: Amy Cully Steele