Cancer test can save lives

It’s Cervical Cancer Prevention Week when campaigners and professionals stress the need to take life-saving smear tests.

Thursday, 24th January 2019, 3:03 pm
Mary Glindon MP for North Tyneside.

Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust tells me that screening prevents 75 per cent of cervical cancers from developing.

It is worried that attendance in England is now at a 21-year low – well over a million of the 4.5 million women invited last year did not turn up.

And non-shows include one in three 25 to 29-year-olds.

It is a particular problem for specific age groups, women with a learning disability, women living in areas of deprivation and women from minority ethnic groups.

There are many reasons why screening uptake is declining.

Some women are embarrassed, some are fearful, others have literacy and cultural barriers, while others find it difficult to get an appointment, given the closure of sexual health services, and struggle to get GP appointments. 

As it happens, North Tyneside is better than the rest of the country when it comes to HPV vaccinations that are offered to those between 12 and 18, which can identify most cervical cancers and save about 400 lives a year.

But our relative success is still not good enough and the enemy of prevention is complacency.

One young woman told the trust that her mother skipped her screenings only to die when it was too late.

The daughter learnt the bitter lesson and avoided the same fate, which she says shows she is living proof that cervical screening saves lives.

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