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Smear tests save lives – make sure you attend yours

Julie Reed
Julie Reed

During Cancer Prevention Week, women are being urged to have a smear test, especially those aged between 25 and 49 as figures reveal over a quarter of women in this age group are not attending.

Research reveals that young women in North Lincolnshire aged between 25 and 49 are less likely to attend a smear test in comparison to women aged 50 to 64.

In 2016, in North Lincolnshire only 74 per cent of eligible young women had a smear test compared to 80 per cent of women aged 50 to 64.

Every year in the UK, over 3,000 women will be diagnosed with cervical cancer. Cervical cancer is the most common cancer in women aged 35 and under; yet one in three young women don’t attend their smear test.

In North Lincolnshire there are between 10 and 15 women newly diagnosed with cervical cancer each year.

This Cervical Cancer Prevention Week (22 to 28 January 2017) we are urging all women, especially young women to attend their cervical smear test when invited – it could save lives. The theme for this year is ‘Reduce your risk’.

Cervical cancer can be prevented. By raising awareness we hope to ensure every woman knows how they can reduce their risk of the disease and the steps they can take to look after their health

Cervical screening isn’t a test for cancer; it’s a test to check the health of the cells of the cervix (the entrance to the womb). Most women’s test results show that everything is normal, but for around one in 20 women, the test shows some abnormal changes in the cells of the cervix.

The symptoms of cervical cancer aren’t always obvious and it may not cause symptoms at all until it’s reached an advanced stage. This is why it’s very important that women attend all of their cervical screening appointments. In most cases vaginal bleeding is the first most noticeable symptom of cervical cancer. It usually occurs after having sex. Bleeding at any other time, other than your expected monthly period is also considered unusual. Other symptoms of cervical cancer may include pain and discomfort during sex and an unpleasant smelling vaginal discharge.

To find out more about Cervical Cancer Prevention Week, visit Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust website: www.jostrust.org.uk. For more information about cervical cancer and the NHS cervical screening programme, visit www.nhs.uk/conditions/cancer-of-the-cervix.

Councillor Julie Reed, cabinet member for Adults and Health, said: “A surprising number of women in North Lincolnshire are not attending their cervical screening in North Lincolnshire. Smear tests save lives, yet the number of women, especially younger women, attending this potentially life-saving test is falling.

“We are urging women of all ages to book their smear test when they are due for one. If you haven’t had your smear test, make sure you book your appointment as soon as possible.”

Robert Music, Chief Executive Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, said: “Cervical cancer is largely preventable with cervical screening (smear tests) providing the best protection against the disease. Screening prevents up to 75 per cent of cervical cancers yet the number of women attending is at a 20 year low in England with over 9,000 women missing their test in North Lincolnshire in the last year alone. There are many reasons women don’t attend ranging from simply putting it off to worrying it will be embarrassing or painful to not knowing what the test is and why it’s important. During Cervical Cancer Prevention Week we want to encourage women to talk to their friends, mothers and daughters about the steps they can take to reduce their risk of cervical cancer.”