More women at risk of cervical cancer as screening attendance drops

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More women are at risk of cervical cancer as cervical screening attendance falls across every age group in England.

Recent figures show that one in four women may be at risk from potentially life-threatening cervical cancer diagnoses, with just over 72.7 per cent of women across England attending cervical screenings.

Of the 4.2 million women aged 25 to 64 invited for cervical screening during 2015 -16, 1.12 million did not attend.

Figures now show that the number of women attending screenings is three per cent lower than in 2011, and has fallen a worrying 0.8 per cent in the last year.

Frankie’s story:

“I was probably about a year late taking up my invitation. I let things get in the way such as my job and moving house. It wasn’t until I was about 26 and a half when I was at a doctor’s appointment and she said I still needed a smear test. We booked it in for the following Wednesday and on the Friday I got a phone call from the receptionist asking to come in that day – that’s when I knew something was wrong. I was fast tracked for a colposcopy and they took a biopsy. 6 weeks later I had to go back to the hospital. I went to the appointment on my own, in my lunch hour from work. The surgeon who had carried out my colposcopy took me into his office and said “I’m sorry to say that unfortunately you have cancer. I was diagnosed with stage 1B cervical cancer and had to have a trachelectomy (surgery to remove part of the cervix, surrounding tissue and lymph nodes). I got the all clear after that and have been cancer free since 2013.

It is so easy to put off screening. People think cancer is one of those things that happen to other people, and don’t think that they could be at risk. I’ve been incredibly lucky. If I had put mine off any longer I may have lost my life. I would urge every young woman to attend for the test as soon as they get that letter. It could save their life.”

Robert Music, Chief Executive at Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, said, “The new data makes bleak reading.”

“As we see screening coverage go down year on year, we are also seeing the numbers diagnosed with cervical cancer rise.”

“If we do not start immediately reverse declining coverage then tragically we will see more diagnoses and lives lost from what is a largely preventable disease.”

“It is essential that government, commissioners and public health leads invest in ensuring that every woman understands the role of screening in preventing cervical cancer and the potential health implications of not attending.”

“The Cancer Strategy for England acknowledges the health inequalities that exist as a result of low screening uptake, particularly among Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic groups and communities of lower socio-economic status and we need to see these gaps closed.”

“Targeted awareness and education campaigns at both a national and local level must be a priority alongside making screening more accessible.”

“We are calling for urgent action to explore initiatives including self-testing, increasing provision of screening in sexual health clinics and allowing women to attend screening at GP surgeries other than the one they are registered with.”

About the author

Alison is the Digital Content Editor for WeAreTheCity. She has a BA Honours degree in Journalism and History from the University of Portsmouth. She has previously worked in the marketing sector and in a copywriting role. Alison’s other passions and hobbies include writing, blogging and travelling.

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