There’s been a drop in the number of women taking up cervical smear tests in East Sussex.
Last year, 75.1% of women invited for a test accepted the offer, down from 75.6% the year before. NHS England say screeningss are at 19 year low and don’t want women to let embarrassment to get in the way of them having their regular smear.
Every day, nine women in the UK are diagnosed with cervical cancer and three women lose their lives to the disease. Statistics show that the number of women aged 25-29 years of age being screened for cervical cancer is the lowest in any age group.
Cervical cancer is the most common cancer in women under 35 but is largely preventable thanks to cervical screening and the HPV vaccination programme.
Surveys undertaken by cancer charities point to embarrassment and a lack of understanding of the causes of cervical cancer may be behind the fall in numbers attending.
The number of women dying from cervical cancer has halved over the past 28 years as a result of the NHS screening programme as well as improvement in treatment.
Despite this success, over 5,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year. The majority of women diagnosed have delayed coming forward for screening. This can affect their ability to have early changes treated.
Following her cervical screening test Emma from Sussex was diagnosed with cancer in 2011. She said, “The hospital phoned me on my birthday to say they wanted to talk to me about the results... I went to hospital on Friday 8 July 2011 and that was the day I was told the devastating news that I had cervical cancer.
“The following weeks were a blur of appointments, blood tests and trips to Brighton Hospital, I had the rarer type of cervical cancer adenocarcinoma and the only thing I could do was to have a radical hysterectomy.”
Sussex GP and NHS England Deputy Medical Director for the South East Dr Alison Taylor said, “We have noticed a fall in attendance of younger women over the past few years, and this decline in attendance for screening is now linked to showing a rise in the incidence of cervical cancer in women under 35.”
NHS England and Public Health England are supporting European Cervical Cancer Prevention Week which runs from January 22-28. The Surrey and Sussex Screening and Immunisation team are working with GP practices to increase awareness and encourage them to support Cervical Cancer Prevention Week.
The week aims to raise awareness of the importance of cervical screening and its role in preventing cancer, as well as encouraging women to go for their screening test when invited.
Dr Taylor added, “It is really important for young women to understand the importance of attending cervical screening 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.
“The screening test is relatively simple, takes about 5 minutes and is performed by the practice nurse at your GP surgery. 95% of results will be normal and of those that are not, the vast majority can be treated very easily and will never develop in to cancer.”
Robert Music, Chief Executive for Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust said, “The number of women in England attending smear tests is at a 19 year low and the number of women being diagnosed with cervical cancer is worryingly high. In Sussex one in four women did not attend their smear test when invited last year and we simply cannot afford for this to continue. Smear tests prevent against 75% of cervical cancers and provide the best protection against the disease. I would encourage every woman to attend this potentially life-saving test when invited and hope that people in Sussex will join our #SmearForSmear campaign to raise awareness of smear tests.”