Thousands of women missing ‘important’ tests which could save their lives

PUBLISHED: 07:00 26 January 2018

Thousands of women are skipping smear tests.

Thousands of women are skipping smear tests.

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The number of women attending potentially life-saving cancer screenings in North Somerset is falling year on year, with thousands of them failing to take the test.

Women aged 25 and over are invited to have a smear test, which checks for abnormalities potentially indicating cervical cancer.

But a quarter of all women in North Somerset are skipping the tests after they are invited by their GP.

Attendance is worst among young women aged 25-29 in North Somerset, where 26 per cent of them have not booked their first smear test appointment.

Dr Alison Wint, cancer lead at the clinical commissioning group covering North Somerset, said: “We are well aware cervical cancer screening is one of the more intrusive tests, but it is important you attend – it could save your life.”

MORE: Hospital ranked second worst in country over cancer referrals.

The NHS’s screening programme and improvements in treatment have meant the number of women dying from cervical cancer has halved over the past 28 years.

However, thousands of women are delaying screening, which has an impact on early treatment options.

Cervical Cancer Prevention Week has been running from Monday until Friday, to encourage women to get screened.

It is thought the HPV (human papilloma virus) injection, which has been offered to teenage girls since 2008 and protects against 70 per cent of viruses which cause cervical cancer, is partly to blame for the drop in screenings.

Embarrassment and a lack of understanding about the causes of cervical cancer may also a factor behind the fall in attendance.

Dr Julie Yates, lead consultant for screening for NHS England in the South West, said: “We have noticed a fall in attendance of younger women over the past few years, and are concerned this trend may increase due to misunderstanding of the level of protection that the HPV vaccination offers.

“It’s really important for women to understand the importance of attending cervical screening when they receive a letter from their GP as it can detect pre-cancer abnormalities, which, if left untreated, may develop into cancer.

“Screening is for people without symptoms as a preventative measure.”

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