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19 January 2019, 06:00
Thousands of women across the West Country aren’t going for their smear tests.
More than 66,000 women didn’t have one in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire, putting them at increased risk of developing cervical cancer.
The number of women dying from cervical cancer has halved over the past 30 years as a result of the NHS screening programme and improvement in treatments but the number of women having the test has fallen.
Dr Alison Wint, MacMillan GP and Specialised Care Lead at Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “We know some women find attending cervical screening tests embarrassing, however, it is a simple procedure and it really does save lives. We would encourage all women who receive an invitation to book their test as soon as possible.
“Cervical cancer is one of the most preventable types of cancer. However, we need women to attend their test so that we can identify abnormal cells before they become cancer. Early detection is the best form of defence against cervical cancer and we would ask anyone with female friends and relatives who have not attended their test, to speak with them and encourage them to book an appointment with their GP.
“It’s also important to let your GP practice have your most up to date address so they can send you your test invitation in the post.”
Dr Beth Winn, GP Registrar at Green Valleys Health and Health Education England Quality Improvement Fellow, said: “We are currently trying to increase the uptake of the smear test in Bristol as it is at a 19-year low. We particularly want to help women from ethnic minority groups access the test, as we know they are less likely to come for the smear. We are targeting key barriers and beliefs keeping women from booking their smear, including thinking you only need to go if you have symptoms, which is not the case.
“We also want to reassure women that the smear test will be performed by an expert health professional, who in nearly all cases is a female doctor/nurse and you can check to confirm this with reception when you book you appointment.