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Whilst latest figures from Cervical Screening Wales shows a slight increase in the number of women attending for smear tests in the region, almost 1 in 4 women are still failing to take up this life saving test (1).
Wales saw an overall increase of 0.1% to reach an uptake of 76.5% from April 2010 to March 2011 with 230,800 women following a formal invitation from the screening programme. The report also shows a 0.8% increase in screening women under 30.
The report shows the lowest uptake in Cardiff and Vale at 73.7% with the highest in Powys at 80.2%.
Robert Music, Director of Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, the UK’s only charity dedicated to supporting women with cervical cancer and cervical abnormalities, comments: “It’s great to see screening uptake in Wales is moving in the right direction. However the report shows that one in four women are still not attending a screening appointment.
“Cervical cancer is largely preventable and with cervical screening playing a key role in this, we implore women of all ages who have missed or delayed a test to get screened. This simple five minute procedure could save their life.”
Bryan Rose, Head of Cervical Screening Wales, said: “We are really pleased to see a small increase in the number of women being screened across Wales. About 1,000 women die from cervical cancer in the UK each year but we know that screening saves more than 5,000 lives a year.
“It is important to note that regular smear tests are the most effective way of detecting pre-cancerous cells in the cervix, so women should attend for screening every three years when invited, even if they have had a normal result in the past.”
Research commissioned by Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust (2) found several barriers to screening attendance. These include women suffering fear or embarrassment of the test as well as a lack of flexibility from both GP’s for appointment times and employers allowing time off to have the procedure. In addition in all three surveys that were commissioned by the charity, there was a poor understanding of cervical cancer, its causes and how it can be prevented.
Robert Music continues: “It is absolutely critical that everyone who has a role to play in reaching and educating women about cervical cancer prevention does everything possible to encourage them to get screened.
“This includes more targeted campaigns to different age groups within the programme as well as contacting hard to reach communities where uptake is lower. For example work needs to be done with BME women where our research has shown a lower understanding of the importance and relevance of cervical screening.
“The impact of a diagnosis cannot be underestimated and for those that survive, many will go through invasive and painful treatments, suffering on-going side effects with a possibility of losing the ability to have children.
“We need to remind and reassure women that this is a simple five minute procedure, given once every three years that could quite literally save their life.”
For further information, comment or case studies please contact Maddy Durrant on 020 7936 7498 / 07772 290 064 or email [email protected]
Notes to editors