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Embarrassment, fear and vulnerability prevents thousands of women attending potentially life-saving test

PUBLISHED: 14:18 21 January 2019 | UPDATED: 14:34 21 January 2019

A speculum. Picture: JO'S CERVICAL CANCER TRUST

A speculum. Picture: JO'S CERVICAL CANCER TRUST

Archant

The uptake of young woman attending a potentially life-saving routine test is at an all time low after new research has revealed many feel too embarrassed, scared or vulnerable to go.

Smeat test sample. Picture: JO'S CERVICAL CANCER TRUSTSmeat test sample. Picture: JO'S CERVICAL CANCER TRUST

The worrying statistics come following the launch of a national charity’s new campaign to get more women to attend their cervical screenings - also known as a smear test.

With attendance plummeting, Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust uncovered a range of new issues which it feared was contributing to the decline.

Dr Philippa Kaye, charity ambassador, said: “We honestly don’t think about what you’re wearing, what you look like, whether or not you’ve shaved - we just want to offer the best test we can to as many women as possible.

“We’ve seen and heard it all before and want to put your mind at ease if you have questions or concerns. Ask the things you want to know and remember you can say stop any time - it’s your test.”

Jo’s surveyed more than 2,000 young women about their experiences and found that of 915 women who had delayed a test or never gone for a screening, 71pc were scared, 75pc felt vulnerable, 81pc suffered embarrassment, and 67pc said they would not feel in control.

When asked what had caused them to delay or miss a test, 69pc said they felt uncomfortable with a stranger examining an intimate area and 58pc were scared it would hurt. A further 37pc admitted to not knowing what would happen during the test.

Robert Music, chief executive of Jo’s, said: “We want women to feel comfortable talking to their nurse and asking questions. It’s not making a fuss and there are many ways to make the test easier. Please don’t let your fears stop you booking a test.”

Figures show that cervical screening rates among all ages are at the lowest they have been for two decades . Almost one in three women aged 25 to 64 have not had a smear test within the timeframe the NHS recommends - every three years for women aged 25 to 49, and every five years for those aged 50 to 64.

In Norfolk attendance is down by 0.3pc with the latest figures showing 74.1pc of the county’s women attending their screening. In Suffolk the figure remains the same at 74.1pc while in Cambridge attendance has dropped by 0.6pc to 71pc - below the average in the East of England (72.9pc).

About 220,000 British women are diagnosed with cervical abnormalities every year and in 2016 there were 854 deaths from cervical cancer in England.

Find out more about Jo’s Smear For Smear campaign here or call the national helpline on 0808 802 8000.

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