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Smear tests shunned

23rd January 2007

04092006_cervical_cancer1.jpgHealth professionals are warning of an increase in cervical cancer as thousands of young women shun smear tests.

New figures have revealed that 30 per cent of those invited for a smear test last year in the 25 to 29 age bracket failed to turn up, compared with less than 20% in 1995.  Attendance by women aged between 30 and 34 is also down by as much as 800 per week.  Doctors are worried that around 2,000 women who have developed pre-cancerous cells are missing the chance of an early diagnosis. 

Health professionals are now trying to ascertain why such a large proportion of women are failing to attend the screening sessions.  Theories range from women being embarrassed by the invasive nature of the test to a sense of complacency now that the disease is under control.  Julietta Patnick, director of NHS cancer screening programmes, said, "We are currently exploring the reasons why women don't attend for cervical screening and our preliminary results indicate that they think it may hurt or that the experience will be embarrassing.  Another key issue could in fact be the effectiveness of the screening programme - a reduction in rates of cervical cancer means it is now a far less common disease so people don't tend to worry about it so much."

The introduction of cervical screening in 1988 brought deaths from the disease down from 6,000 to 1,000 a year.  Women are encouraged to book their first smear once they become sexually active and are then usually invited for screening every three years.

 

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