3.7 Million Women Avoiding Smear Tests Linked to Cervical Cancer Increase in the UK

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Wednesday 27th January 2016

A health charity has warned that almost 3.7 million women in Britain are not attending smear tests, which are potentially life-saving.

Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust has linked the decline in attendance for screening tests to a 6% rise in UK cervical cancer cases.

According to the charity, one in three women aged 25-29 haven’t attended a smear test in the last five years. Older women have also been affected by the decline in screening attendance. Only 74.8% of women aged 55-59 attended in 2014-15, whereas 10 years ago 81% of women in this age group attended.

The charity conducted research which suggested a 27% reduction in deaths from cervical cancer could be achieved in as little as five years if more women underwent screening tests.

Chief executive of Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, Robert Music, said that cervical cancer is preventable and it’s important that incidences don’t continue to rise. He added that it’s an urgent matter that we see encouraging behaviour to reverse the descending trend in cervical screening attendance and the trust is urging health professionals and policy makers to take on the barriers to screening for women of all ages, circumstances, locations and ethnicities.

The charity has reached out to public health officials to make prevention of cervical cancer a national priority. They are also looking to raise awareness of the simple steps women can take in protecting their own health, through their #SmearForSmear campaign, which was initially launched last year.

Music added that the campaign in 2015 resonated with women at the beginning of the screening programme and drove more women to use the trust’s online information and support services in its first year.

He went on to say that despite this, cervical cancer can affect women of all ages and the charity is focused and determined to reverse the decline in screening attendance amongst women at the end of the programme. The trust believes that the success of the campaign lies in how simple it is. By encouraging women to go for a screening test, the campaign could potentially save lives and eventually contribute to the eradication of this hugely devastating but largely preventable disease.

Jane Ellison, public health minister, said that cervical cancer can be prevented and Britain is a world-leader in screening for the disease. It also has one of the highest rates in the world of HPV vaccination and this helps to protect women from developing cervical cancer.

She went on to say that many women, particularly among the younger age group, are not accepting their screening invitation. She encourages all women eligible for the test to make the important choice to have a smear test when they are invited.

Public Health England’s director of screening, Dr Anne Mackie, said that cervical cancer can help to detect abnormalities that could develop into cervical cancer if left untreated.

Dr Mackie added that it is the NHS Cervical Screening Programme’s duty to offer clear information to women and help them decide whether screening is right for them.