Fewer than 80% of Lanarkshire women have had smear test

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An NHS Lanarkshire consultant is encouraging women who have missed their last smear to contact their GP practice, as it could save their life.

The move comes during Cervical Screening Awareness Week which urged more local women to have a smear test.

The awareness week, organised by the charity Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, runs from 12 to 18 June.

It throws a spotlight on the importance of cervical screening, commonly known as a smear test.

NHS Lanarkshire public health consultant Dr Jennifer Darnborough is worried that not enough women are going for the potentially life-saving smear test.

Jennifer explained: “Cervical screening works really well and by picking up changes before symptoms develop and treating them. Smear testing prevents around eight out of 10 cervical cancers from developing in the first place. It is thought to save around 5000 lives a year in the UK.

“Cervical cancer most commonly affects women, in their 30s and 40s, but it can affect women of any age, so older women should still take part when invited.

“Women aged between 25 and 64 receive a cervical screening invite every 3 to 5 years. But less than 80% of them have taken up the offer in Lanarkshire in the past five years.

“We need more women to have screening to prevent more cases of cervical cancer and reduce deaths. The test only takes a few minutes and will be carried out by an experienced female smear taker who does this testing all the time.

“I know women will worry about the results when they have a smear test - I do too. But over 90 per cent of us will be given the all-clear.

“A few women are invited back for further smears or for investigation and treatment as an out-patient. This treatment can prevent cancer from developing in the first place.

“While screening is our best protection against cervical cancer it is important to visit your doctor if you spot any symptoms. Symptoms include lower back pain, pain during sex, bleeding during or after sex or in between periods, post-menopausal bleeding and unusual vaginal discharge”

A ‘toolkit’ has been developed and introduced across Lanarkshire, detailing easy and helpful ways for services to increase the uptake of cervical screening. The kit includes how to organise ‘smear amnesties/ pop up clinics’ – where women are offered personalised appointments if they have not been for a test for some time.

There is also help for women with limited mobility and we are also working with our learning disability service to address low uptake among the women they see.

Jennifer stressed: “Please don’t miss the opportunity when you get your invitation. Make that appointment.”