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Public Health Wales apology over lack of clarity on smear test changes

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PUBLIC HEALTH WALES has apologised and admitted it hasn’t “done enough” to explain the reasons for increasing the length of time between cervical screening tests.

The change, which was announced on Tuesday, means people aged between 25 and 50 with a cervix will now wait five years until another test, rather than three, providing no human papillomavirus (HPV) cells are detected.

HPV is a very common virus that most people will come into contact with at some time during their lives. One or more high-risk types of HPV are present in over 99.8% of cervical cancers.

HPV testing was successfully introduced in Wales in 2018 and almost nine out of 10 results show no high-risk HPV.

There are about 160 cases of cervical cancer diagnosed every year in Wales and it is the most common cancer in women under the age of 35.

But Public Health Wales has admitted it has failed to give clear information over the change, leading to concerns cancers could be missed.

In a tweet this weekend PHW said: “We are sorry. We haven’t done enough to explain the changes to cervical screening and have caused concern. We are working to make this clearer and more information will be available as soon as we can today and in the coming days.”

Cancer charities have sought to reassure women concerned by the change. Cancer Research UK has said people should be aware increasing the gap between screenings is “safe” and the new form of testing means people are invited for further based on their risk of developing cancer rather than their age.

An online petition, calling for the reintroduction of the three year gap between routine smear tests, has now attracted more than 680,000 signatures.

Alice Davies, Cancer Research UK’s health information manager, said people should be aware the decision to increase the time between screenings was made on scientific advice and due to a new way of testing samples which detects human papilloma virus (HPV) and means doctors are better able to identify those at risk of developing cervical cancer.Ms Davies said: “As the new test is more accurate at finding those at risk of cervical cancer, screening intervals can be safely extended from three to five years.

“If someone is HPV positive then their next screening interval will be shorter than five years. The new test allows women to be invited back for screening based on their risk of developing cervical cancer, rather than just their age.

“Overall this makes the programme more accurate, and means people don’t have extra rounds of screening that wouldn’t give them any benefit, while offering more screening to people at higher risk.”On Wednesday Public Health Wales said it accepted it has to do more to explain the reasons for the change.

Charity Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, described as the UK’s leading cervical cancer charity, has sought to reassure people concerned about the changes.

It has said the change has been introduced following advice from the UK National Screening Committee which recommended the five year gap between tests due to the use of HPV tests which are more sensitive and effective.

It said this means the advice is most women aged 25 to 49 can, as those aged 50 to 64 are, can be tested every five years rather than three.

The charity says the improved testing will likely mean more lives saved by identifying those at greater risk of cancer earlier.

According to Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust women in Wales, and Scotland, are invited back based on the result of the screening.

If those show high-risk HPV and cell changes you will be invited to colposcopy.

If it identified high-risk HPV but no cell changes you will be invited for cervical screening in one year.

If there is no HPV you will be invited for cervical screening in five years.

Public Health Wales says HPV testing was introduced in Wales in 2018 and almost nine out of 10 results show no high-risk HPV.

Heather Lewis, consultant in public health for Cervical Screening Wales said: “The HPV test we now use in Wales is more effective at identifying people at higher risk of developing cell changes which can cause cervical cancer.

“The evidence shows that it is therefore safe to extend the time between cervical screening tests for people who do not have HPV identified.”

HPV is a very common virus that most people will come into contact with at some time during their lives. One or more high-risk types of HPV are present in over 99.8% of cervical cancers.

Increasing the time between smear tests will also reduce risks from screening.

Head of Programme for Cervical Screening Wales at Public Health Wales, Louise Dunk said: “Testing everyone who attends for cervical screening using a test for high risk HPV will identify those at risk and prevent more cancers than just examining the cells alone.

“It is a really positive development that this more effective test will mean that women and people with a cervix, who test negative for HPV, now only need to attend their testing every five years, rather than three.”

There are around 160 cases of cervical cancer diagnosed every year in Wales and it is the most common cancer in women under the age of 35.

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Health

Give blood, save lives – Do something memorable this National Blood Donor Week

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THE WELSH BLOOD SERVICE is urging people to consider becoming blood donors to help save lives this National Blood Donor Week.

Over 350 blood donations are needed every day across Wales. The donations play a vital role in saving lives by supporting a range of treatments, from helping recovering accident victims and patients with blood cancers to supporting mothers and newborn babies during childbirth. 

The Welsh Blood Service supports 20 hospitals across the country and relies on donations from blood, platelet and bone marrow donors to help patients in need.

Supporting the call is 65-year-old Howard Provis, one of Wales’ longest serving donors with nearly 50 years of dedication to the service. Howard has been donating platelets since the age of 18 and has recently made his 1,000 th donation which has helped save the lives of thousands of people across Wales.

Encouraging more people to come forward following his own experience, Howard explains, “With a background in first aid and first responding, I have seen people in many situations that have required blood. For me being able to give blood or platelets has given some of those people a second chance to live or spend precious extra time with their families and friends.

“Tomorrow, it could be me that needs a blood or platelet donation, or my wife, family or a friend. The thought that my donation today could potentially save someone’s life tomorrow has inspired me to keep supporting the Welsh Blood Service.”

Speaking of Howard’s achievement Alan Prosser, Director of the Welsh Blood Service explains, “Howard is one of only a handful of donors to reach this incredible milestone, and his donations will have helped patients in need from hospitals across the whole of Wales.

“His commitment to helping others is truly inspirational, and we hope his story encourages others to start their own lifesaving journey this National Blood Donor Week.”

National Blood Donor Week is an opportunity for blood services across the UK to raise awareness of the lifesaving importance of blood donation and encourage those who have never donated to give it a go.

The week also incorporates World Blood Donor Day (June 14), a day of celebration and thanks to the thousands of people who give up their time freely to donate and help people in need.

Alan continues, “We must say a huge thank you to every single donor who has supported us over the past two years. It has been a challenging period, but the generosity of people across Wales has been unwavering.

“As our Service works towards a post-covid collection service, we hope more people will step forward and join our lifesaving team. Following changes to UK donation guidelines, more people than ever before can safely donate, which means there has never been a better time to give it a go.”

June 14 is also the one-year anniversary of the landmark changes introduced following the recommendations made by the FAIR (For the Assessment of Individualised Risk) steering group.

These pioneering changes to donation rules have meant that all donors, regardless of gender, are now asked a set of questions, meaning that more people than ever before, including those from the LGBTQ+ community are potentially eligible to donate.

You can book your first or next blood donation appointment by visiting www.wbs.wales/nbdw22 and if you are 17-30, you can also consider signing up to the Welsh Bone Marrow Donor Registry.

For those who cannot donate, you can still become a Welsh Blood Service supporter. 

Sharing their social media posts, encouraging your friends, family and colleagues to raise awareness of the importance of donating blood, platelets and bone marrow.

To learn more about donating blood, platelets and bone marrow, or to book, visit www.welshblood.org.uk.

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Welsh residents unaware of the early signs of dehydration according to new resarch

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PEOPLE living in Wales are unaware of the five most common signs of dehydration, according to research from Aqua Pura.

Even though more than half (55%) of residents believe they know the symptoms of dehydration, the new research reveals many don’t know the early warning signs.

More than two thirds (65%) don’t think having bad breath/a dry mouth is a symptom of dehydration, while half (50%) don’t think dark coloured urine is a tell tail sign. In reality, both are early warning signs which shouldn’t be ignored.

Early signs which residents in Wales don’t think are signs of dehydration (but actually are) include (% of survey sample):

·       Bad breath/dry mouth (65%)

·       Feeling dizzy (53%)

·       Dark coloured urine (50%)

·       Fatigue (48%)

·       Headache (42%)

“Dehydration can lead to a number of health problems such as constipation, muscle tiredness, urinary tract infections and headaches, so it’s concerning to see that so many people are unaware of the early signs. It’s known that having a good level of hydration can help to maintain higher energy levels, better weight control and faster thinking.

“As we approach the summer months and temperatures across the country rise, it’s important that people take the time to drink more to keep their fluid levels topped up and avoid any unwanted health issues. This fluid can in fact come from a variety of drinks and foods, but plain water is a great calorie and sugar free option to ensure you stay hydrated,” comments hydration expert, Dr Stuart Galloway of the University of Stirling.

From fizzy drinks and fresh orange juice, to tea and coffee the research reveals residents of Wales are unaware that drinks other than plain water can contribute to hydration levels.

In fact, almost two fifths (17%) of those surveyed don’t think that sparkling water contributes, let alone fizzy drinks.

Top 10 drinks residents of the Wales don’t think help with hydration

1.     Wine (68%)

2.     Beer/larger (66%)

3.     Cider (64%)

4.     Coffee (53%)  

5.     Hot chocolate (47%)

6.     Fizzy drinks (44%)

7.     Fresh juice (21%)

8.     Tea (25%)

9.     Sparkling water (17%)

10.  Dilutable juice (13%)

“Many will be surprised to see drinks like wine and coffee on the list, as they’re often thought to dehydrate you. Alcoholic drinks will lead to dehydration, but only if you drink more than one or two servings. A similar situation occurs with caffeinated drinks, for example, a black coffee is mostly boiling water so this makes up part of your daily water intake. The dehydration effect of caffeine starts to kick in after around a litre of regular coffee, up until then it can be classed as part of your daily intake of water. However, often the best and healthiest way to ensure you’re getting your daily intake of water is by drinking plain still or sparkling water,” adds Dr Stuart.

Even though drinking water is the easiest, and healthiest, way to get to the recommended daily amount of water, the nationwide survey reveals almost one in 10 (7%) admit they don’t drink any water at all. Those in the baby boomer generation, aged between 55 – 73, are the most likely to not drink any water at all, with one in seven (14%) saying this is the case.

Dr Stuart’s top tips of staying hydrated this summer:

·       Be aware of the signs of dehydration such as dry mouth and dark coloured urine

·       Alongside the fluids you drink, choose foods such as fruits and vegetables which have a high-water content as this all helps to keep you hydrated throughout the day without you even thinking about it

·       The hotter you get, the quicker you’ll get dehydrated so make sure you’re dressing for the weather and don’t spend too much time out in the sun

·       If you’re going out for the day, or even just spending an afternoon at the shops, make sure you take some water with you to stay hydrated on the go

“It’s our mission here at Aqua Pura to keep the nation hydrated – especially over the summer when more people are out and about, exploring their local area. The good news is that it’s easy to keep hydrated simply by drinking water – something that is plentiful here in the UK thanks to our climate. It means we’re all able to enjoy fresh water from the hills – in our case from the Lake District – to help keep us healthy.

“In a bid to help people stay hydrated, we’ve created a hydration calculator so Brits can work out how much water they should be drinking this summer. We hope this will help people to truly understand how much water they should be drinking,” adds Kelly Hall, Aqua Pura.

To calculate how much you should be drinking, visit www.aqua-pura.com.

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Health

Childhood hepatitis outbreak – four more cases in Wales under investigation

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PUBLIC HEALTH WALES is investigating four more cases of acute hepatitis among children.

Health officials have identified 17 cases in Wales, an increase of four cases since the last update on 6 May.

UK Health Security Agency launched an investigation in April after hospitals reported a rise in cases of acute childhood hepatitis with no known cause.

Typically, UK hospitals see about 20 cases a year that are not caused by common hepatitis viruses, but cases this year are nearly 10 times higher.

A number of hypotheses are being investigated and the information gathered so far increasingly suggests that the rise in these cases may be linked to adenovirus infection, with other factors likely to be playing a role.

Dr Ardiana Gjini, Consultant in Communicable Disease Control for Public Health Wales, said:

“Hepatitis can cause jaundice and inflammation of the liver, so parents and carers should be aware of the symptoms of jaundice – including skin with a yellow tinge which is most easily seen in the whites of the eyes.

“We are reminding the public to familiarise themselves with this and other symptoms of hepatitis in light of these UK cases.

“In addition, the importance of maintaining normal hygiene routines, especially ensuring that children wash their hands properly, help to reduce the spread of many common infections.

“Parents and carers are reminded that they should keep their children away from school and seek advice from a GP or an appropriate specialist if their child experiences any symptoms linked with hepatitis.”

Hepatitis symptoms include:

  • dark urine
  • pale, grey-coloured poo
  • itchy skin
  • yellowing of the eyes and skin (jaundice)
  • muscle and joint pain
  • a high temperature
  • feeling and being sick
  • feeling unusually tired all the time
  • loss of appetite
  • tummy pain

Regular updates on the ongoing investigation into the cases in the UK can be found on the UKHSA website.

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