Women in North Somerset urged to attend smear tests

3:00pm - 21 January 2019

As Cervical Cancer Prevention Week (21 – 27 January) starts today, health officials are reminding women across North Somerset of the importance of attending regular smear tests as latest figures from the NHS show that thousands of women in the area are missing the potentially life-saving test.

A simple screening test, known as a smear test, can detect abnormalities within the cervix that could, if undetected and untreated, develop into cervical cancer.

A smear test is available free of charge to all women between the ages of 25 and 64 years old. Women aged 25 to 49 years old are invited to a screening every three years and women aged 50 to 64 years old are invited every five years.

In North Somerset attendance rates are above the regional average with 76.1% of women aged 25 to 64 attending their smear test appointments, above the South West average of 73.1%

However, this means that 12,691 women in North Somerset missed their smear test last year and nationally uptake of cervical screening is at a 20-year low. Health officials in North Somerset are urging women to attend regular smear tests.

Dr Andrew Burnett, North Somerset Council’s interim Director of Public Health, said: “Cervical cancer is essentially avoidable. Early detection and treatment of changes in the lining of the cervix identified from a smear test can prevent progression to cancer.

“Attending for your smear test when invited is absolutely the best way of reducing the risk of cervical cancer. The message is simple: if you are a woman aged 25-64 years then have a cervical screening test regularly.”

Changes in the cells of the cervix are nearly always caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV). In addition to the cervical screening programme, girls aged 12 to 18 years old have been offered immunisation against this infection since 2008.

Dr Burnett added: “If you have a daughter aged 12-18 years then check with your GP surgery or school nurse about her being immunised against HPV. Both the HPV vaccine and smear tests are available free of charge under the NHS.”

To find out more about the NHS cervical screening programme or HPV immunisation visit www.nhs.uk.

For more information about Cervical Cancer Prevention Week, as well information and advice about smear tests and cervical cancer, visit the Jo’s Trust website at www.jostrust.org.uk.