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A new resource about cervical screening (smear tests) has been launched following the poor uptake of screening for women with learning disabilities. ‘The Smear Test Film’ is a health education film resource for women eligible for cervical screening who have mild and moderate learning disabilities. It has been made by Public Health England in association with Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust.
Every day in the UK, nine women are diagnosed with cervical cancer and nearly three die of the disease. Cervical cancer is largely preventable thanks to the NHS screening programme and HPV vaccination programme. Across England 77.8 per cent of women attend screening, yet for women with learning disabilities, studies have shown that nationally, uptake drops significantly to between 13 to 25 per cent. People with learning disabilities are 45 per cent less likely to be screened compared to their counterparts without learning disabilities.
Approximately two per cent of England's population have a learning disability with the number of people with learning disabilities projected to rise to between 10 and 14 per cent by 2020. Data from 2008 provided by Somerset PCT estimated that of the 698 women on the Somerset LD register 479 were eligible for cervical screening. Out of these 479 women, only 18 per cent (86) had ever attended their cervical screening.
'The Smear Test Film' has been made in conjunction with women who have learning disabilities who helped both script, illustrate and star in the film. It aims to help women make an informed decision about whether to take up their cervical screening invitation as well as equip carers with relevant information on cervical screening and its role in preventing cervical cancer.
Robert Music, Chief Executive of Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, commented: "Cervical screening is a potentially life saving test so it is vital that everyone is able to access the programme regardless of their background. We hope that with this new video resource we are able to reach this group of women, improve their understanding of cervical screening and encourage them to attend when invited."
Professor Julietta Patnick, Director of the NHS Cancer Screening Programmes, managed by Public Health England, said: "We know that women with learning disabilities are much less likely to attend for cervical screening than the general population.
"There are many ways in which women with learning disabilities can be helped to make an informed choice about attending for their cervical screening test.
"This film was made by women with learning disabilities to understand some of the problems people can face when making the decision to go for screening, and how their carers and healthcare professionals can help these women to make their own informed choice.
"I hope that by watching this film many more women with learning disabilities will understand what the test is, what is involved and why it is so important to have regular cervical screening in the prevention of cervical cancer."
For further information, comment or case studies please contact:
Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust:
Notes to editors
About Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust
Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust is the UK's only charity dedicated to supporting women and their families affected by cervical cancer and cervical abnormalities. The charity also campaigns to increase awareness of the disease and bring down numbers diagnosed through promoting the cervical screening and HPV vaccination programmes. The charity’s national helpline is on 0808 802 8000.
About cervical cancer and abnormalities
 Biswas M, Whalley H, Foster J, Friedman E and Deacon R. Women with learning disability and uptake of screening: audit of screening uptake before and after one to one counselling. J Pub Health. 2005. 27( 4), pp. 344-347. Available from: http://jpubhealth.oxfordjournals.org/content/27/4/344.full?sid=c6a2ad4c-ddb6-4660-88a1-13eb2dedc8ba
 Osborn DP, Horsall L, Hassiotis A, Peterson I, Walters K, Nazareth I. Access to Cancer Screening in People with Learning Disabilities in the UK: Cohort Study in the Health Improvement Network, a primary care research database. PLOS ONE. 2012. 7( 8). Available from: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/1362909/
 Cervical Screening Uptake by Women with a Learning Disability. 2008. Somerset PCT