Con­cern as tens of thou­sands of women miss last smear test

Warwickshire Telegraph - - NEWS - By HAR­RIET CLUGSTON & ENDA MULLEN

TENS of thou­sands of women in Coventry did not at­tend their last smear test, NHS fig­ures show.

The take-up rate for cer­vi­cal screen­ings in Coventry has fallen for the fourth con­sec­u­tive year.

Only 68.7% of the 89,600 women who were due a smear test be­fore the end of March at­tended an ap­point­ment.

This means around 27,990 women missed out on the ‘life-sav­ing’ pro­gramme.

Cancer char­i­ties have said the “plum­met­ing” at­ten­dance rate in Eng­land is enor­mously wor­ry­ing.

At­ten­dance across Eng­land has also fallen for the fourth year in a row, reach­ing 71.4% last year.

Robert Mu­sic, chief ex­ec­u­tive of Jo’s Cer­vi­cal Cancer Trust, said women are find­ing it in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult to ac­cess ap­point­ments.

He said: “These sta­tis­tics are highly frus­trat­ing and, cou­pled with ris­ing cer­vi­cal cancer di­ag­noses, an enor­mous worry.

“Women in Eng­land are frankly be­ing let down.

“Many strug­gle to get screen­ing ap­point­ments at their GP, ac­cess through sex­ual health is de­clin­ing, and there is lim­ited pro­vi­sion for those re­quir­ing ex­tra sup­port in­clud­ing sur­vivors of sex­ual vi­o­lence or those with a learn­ing dis­abil­ity.

“We can­not sit back and let cer­vi­cal screen­ing cov­er­age con­tinue to plum­met or di­ag­noses of this of­ten pre­ventable cancer will rise and more moth­ers, daugh­ters, sis­ters and friends will be lost.”

Cer­vi­cal screen­ing is a test that looks for changes in the cells of the cervix which could de­velop into cancer.

Women aged be­tween 25 and 49 are in­vited for a screen­ing ev­ery three years, while those aged 50 to 64 at­tend ev­ery five years.

If they do not have a test within six months of their lat­est in­vi­ta­tion they are counted as not hav­ing at­tended.

In Coventry, the younger age group were sig­nif­i­cantly less likely to be up to date with their tests.

Just 65.6% of 25 to 40-year-olds had at­tended their last ap­point­ment be­fore the end of March com­pared to 76.7% of 50 to 64-year-olds.

The big­gest drop in take-up has also been seen among younger women, down from 68.9% in 201314, the ear­li­est year with com­pa­ra­ble data.

Karis Betts, from Cancer Re­search UK, said there were a num­ber of reasons why some women might not at­tend their smear test.

She said: “Some women don’t know screen­ing is for peo­ple with­out symp­toms and there can also be prac­ti­cal or cul­tural reasons why they might find it dif­fi­cult to make an ap­point­ment.

“We need to fully un­der­stand the reasons be­hind the fig­ures to make screen­ing as ac­ces­si­ble and ef­fec­tive as pos­si­ble.

“We know screen­ing saves 2,000 lives each year, so we would en­cour­age peo­ple to think about tak­ing part when they re­ceive their in­vi­ta­tion.”

Pro­fes­sor Anne Mackie, di­rec­tor of screen­ing at Pub­lic Health Eng­land, which runs the cer­vi­cal screen­ing pro­gramme, said the de­clin­ing takeup rate was “of real con­cern”.

She con­tin­ued: “We know that for some women wor­ries about em­bar­rass­ment or dis­com­fort can put them off. If they are con­cerned they can ask a GP or prac­tice nurse who can ex­plain what’s in­volved and help them make a choice about screen­ing.We’re sup­port­ing the NHS to reach more women by rais­ing aware­ness about the test, and early next year we’re launch­ing a Be Clear on Cancer cam­paign fo­cus­ing on the im­por­tance of cer­vi­cal screen­ing.”

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