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Smear campaign against cervical cancer launches as over one million women fail to attend screening and incidence rises in the under 35s

Sun, 25/01/2015 - 00:01
  • Incidence in 25-29 year olds up 4.8% on previous year and up 59.2% on 10 years ago
  • 1 in 3 young women aged 25-29 fail to attend screening when invited
  • 20% of young women think cervical screening is an unnecessary health test

The UK's only dedicated cervical cancer charity has launched a social media campaign to raise awareness of the importance of smear tests (cervical screening) following concerning figures which show that over one million women [1] failed to be screened in 2013-14 and incidence of cervical cancer rose amongst women under 35.

Data from the Office for National Statistics* shows numbers diagnosed with cervical cancer under 35 in England has risen by 3.98% in one year and 33.1% over 10 years. The increase in incidence follows the poor uptake of screening amongst young women in England with 33.7% of 25-29 year olds and 22.3% of 30-34 year olds failing to be screened in 2013-14.

Across the UK more than 1 in 5 of all women invited to be screened fails to attend with screening uptake falling below 78% for the first time (reaching 77.8%) in over 20 years [2]. Amongst the 25-29 age group invited, screening uptake has dropped from 78% in 1999 to 66.3% in 2014 [3].

Launched at the start of Cervical Cancer Prevention Week (CCPW, 25th - 31st January 2015), Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust is asking the public to join #SmearForSmear – a social media campaign which aims to draw attention to the importance of smear tests and in so doing stop the rise in numbers of women diagnosed with the disease.

A survey[4] by the charity has revealed some of the reasons young women give for delaying attendance include seeing cervical screening as an unnecessary health test (20%), concerns it will be painful (26.2%) and embarrassing (26.6%).

The charity is also concerned about the general lack of knowledge surrounding the test amongst younger women. Over half (56%) of this age group didn't identify the cause of the disease as the human papillomavirus (HPV). One in ten thought it was a test for sexually transmitted infections and 13.5% thought it was a test for ovarian cancer. Giving a voice to cervical cancer prevention is also vital as 48% said they never openly discuss smear tests with their friends or family.

Robert Music, Chief Executive for Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust said: "Every day we see the devastating impact a cervical cancer diagnosis can have on both a woman and her loved ones. But to know that for those that delayed their screening before diagnosis, this could have been prevented, is tragic. It's now time that we see an upward shift in awareness of cervical cancer and an understanding of the importance of smear tests.

Professor Julietta Patnick, Director of the NHS Cancer Screening Programmes, managed by Public Health England (PHE), said: "It is evident that women in this younger age group still need encouragement to be screened and PHE is working hard to address this with research underway to investigate new ways of improving cervical screening uptake among younger women.

"Regular attendance at screening remains the top preventative measure against cervical cancer and we would encourage all women to make the decision to attend when invited."

Robert continues: "We hope the public get fully behind this fun and simple campaign. The more women who take this life saving five minute test, the fewer who will face infertility, early menopause, more extensive long term effects and potentially even loss of life. It's time we all acted as it may just save a life."

How to share your lipstick selfie:

  1. Apply your lipstick, smear it across your cheek and take a photo
  2. Tag #SmearForSmear and @JoTrust in your message
  3. Add the names of the people you want to nominate.

Example tweet: Help prevent cervical cancer w/ @JoTrust. Attend your smear, reduce your risk. Join me @xxxx #SmearForSmear

  1. Post onto Facebook, Twitter or Instagram
  2. For more info on the campaign visit: jostrust.org.uk/smearforsmear

For further information, comment or case studies please contact:

Maddy Durrant or Elisabeth Schuetz at Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust on 020 7250 8311 / 07772 290 064 or email [email protected] / [email protected]


[1] HSCIC Cervical Screening Programme, England, Statistics for 2013-14. 4.24 million women invited for screening with 3.23 million tested

[2] Cervical Screening Programme Annual Review 1998

[3] Based on coverage less than 5 years from last adequate test

[4] Censuswide on behalf of Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust, with 1,012 women aged 25-29 during 6th-12th December 2013. Surveys were conducted from a random sample of a representative panel across the UK.