Uptake for smear tests falls across region, figures show

Uptake for smear tests has fallen across Staffordshire and the Black Country, latest figures show.

Cervical screenings are important tests that can help prevent the fourth most common cancer in women.

But figures show women across England are still regularly skipping the straightforward procedures, with fear, embarrassment, or a lack of understanding of what they involve among the reasons why, according to Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust.

Currently in full swing, the charity's annual Cervical Screening Awareness Week aims to highlight the importance of regular screenings and help those with concerns about getting the tests.

Screenings are offered to women and people with a cervix aged 25 to 49 every three years, while those aged 50 to 64 receive their invitations every five years.

A small sample of cells is taken and checked for pre-cancerous abnormalities.

But the percentage of patients eligible for a smear test by the end of 2021, who actually attended a screening and got a clear result, fell across the Black Country and Staffordshire compared to December 2019, according to NHS Digital data.

In Dudley it dropped from 73 to 72 per cent; in Walsall from 73 to 70 per cent; 68 to 66 per cent in Sandwell; 69 to 65 per cent in Wolverhampton and 76 to 74 per cent in Staffordshire.

Across England, 70 per cent of eligible women had an adequate screening by the end of 2021, against a national target of 80 per cent.

In 2019, the figure stood at 72 per cent.

Samantha Dixon, chief executive of Jo's Trust, said: “There is no one reason behind falling cervical screening attendance, instead a wide range of factors exist.

"These include NHS pressures, fear, embarrassment and not knowing what the test is for or thinking it is relevant.

"Cervical Screening Awareness Week is the ideal time to provide tips, reminders and signpost to support about the test, but work is needed all year round to tackle barriers and support more women and people with a cervix to attend this potentially life-saving test.”

Around 2,700 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer in England each year and approximately 690 women die from the disease, according to NHS statistics which pre-date the coronavirus pandemic – but Cancer Research UK estimates that cervical screening saves at least 2,000 lives annually in the UK.

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