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Kent and Medway women urged to have smear tests

One in four women in Kent are potentially risking their lives by failing to have smear tests.

It has led health officials to issue a warning about apathy towards screening, which is used as a preventative measure against cervical cancer.

Research from NHS England shows women in Medway are the worst for failing to take the test with 26.1% not going to screenings in 2016/17, up from 24.6% in 2015/16.

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More young women in Kent and Medway are skipping their smear tests. Picture: istock
More young women in Kent and Medway are skipping their smear tests. Picture: istock

Those living in the rest of Kent were slightly more receptive to going for a screening with 24.1% not taking up the opportunity in 2016/17, compared to 23.5% in 2015/16.

It comes at the start of Cervical Cancer Prevention Week, which starts today and aims to raise awareness of the importance of cervical screening.

Surveys by cancer charities show the main causes of people not turning up for their smear tests include embarrassment and not understanding the causes of the disease, which killed 890 people in 2014.

Chief executive of Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust, a charity committed to raising awareness of cervical cancer, Robert Music, added: "Cervical cancer is largely preventable with cervical screening providing the best protection against the disease.

"Screening prevents up to 75% of cervical cancers yet the number of women attending is at a 20-year low in England with over one in four women in Kent and Medway missing their test in the last year.

"There are many reasons women don't attend ranging from simply putting it off to worrying it will be embarrassing or painful to not knowing what the test is and why it's important.

"During Cervical Cancer Prevention Week we want to encourage women to talk to their friends, mothers and daughters about the steps they can take to reduce their risk of cervical cancer."

NHS England has revealed every day nine women in the UK are diagnosed with cervical cancer and three women lose their lives to the disease.

In light of this women are being told ways to help reduce their risk of developing the disease such as practicing safe sex, not smoking, going along to screening sessions and getting vaccinated with the HPV jab.

Public health screening and immunisation lead for Kent and Medway, Dr John Rodriguez, said: "We have noticed a fall in attendance of younger women over the past few years, and are concerned that this trend may increase due to misunderstanding of the level of protection that the HPV vaccination offers.

"Although they are protected against the two most common HPV types that cause 70% of cervical cancers, the risk is not completely eliminated and screening is still an important part of preventing cancer.

Nurses are being attacked during their work days. Stock picture
Nurses are being attacked during their work days. Stock picture

"It is really important for young women to understand the importance of attending cervical screening as it can detect pre-cancer abnormalities, which, if left untreated, may develop into cancer.

"Screening is for people without symptoms as a preventative measure.

"The screening test is relatively simple, takes about five minutes and is performed by the practice nurse at your GP surgery.

"Some 95% of results will be normal and of those that are not, the vast majority can be treated very easily and will never develop in to cancer."


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