Growing number of young women in North Somerset are skipping cervical cancer screenings

PUBLISHED: 16:00 26 January 2018

Thousands of women are skipping smear tests.

Thousands of women are skipping smear tests.

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A quarter of women in North Somerset who have been invited to have a test for cervical cancer have not attended screenings, and numbers are falling year on year.

Smear tests are offered to women aged 25 and over to check for abnormalities which can be signs of cancer.

Although the five-minute test can be potentially life-saving, 26 per cent of women aged 25-29 in North Somerset have not taken the test when offered it.

Attendance among young women is the worst in all age ranges.

However, a quarter of all women in North Somerset have missed their smear tests when invited by their GP.

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.”

The number of women dying from cervical cancer has halved over the past 28 years as a result of the NHS screening programme and improvements in treatment.

In the UK, 5,000 women are diagnosed each year, and some of them delayed screening, which impacted 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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