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Not enough women are taking up the offer to protect themselves against cancer by having regular cervical screening, according to figures released today.
Figures from the Public Health Screening Programmes Annual Report show that only 75.1 per cent of women who are invited for a cervical screening have taken up the offer. And in some areas of Glasgow these rates drop as low as 65.7 per cent.
All women aged between 20 and 60 years of age are invited every three years for cervical screening. In Glasgow North East 71.7 per cent of women attended their screening appointment, in Glasgow South it was 74.6 per cent and in Glasgow North West only 65.7 per cent of women took up the offer of the potentially life-saving test.
Consultant in Public Health Medicine Emilia Crighton said: “While the majority of women who are invited for a ‘smear test’ attend, it is extremely worrying that in some areas approximately one in three women are not having their regular cervical screening.”
Cervical cancer is a preventable disease and regular screening prevents eight out of 10 cancers developing. All women in Scotland aged 20 to 60 are offered cervical screening tests every three years and screening saves around 5000 lives each year.
Emilia explained: “Regular cervical screening is the best way for women to protect themselves against cervical cancer. The test takes less than five minutes but could save your life so we urge all women to take up the offer of screening.
“We are working on developing ways of encouraging women to attend their appointment and I would strongly urge everyone is receives their invitation to take up the offer – it may save your life.”
The screening itself tests for any early changes in the cells caused by a strain of virus called human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is an extremely common virus – more than 100 strains have been identified so far – and they can affect different parts of the body. However, the high-risk HPV types can, in some cases, cause the development of cervical cancer. The HPV infection can cause changes to the cells of the cervix creating abnormalities that can over the years develop into cancer. That is why regular screening is so important, so any changes can be spotted quickly and any potential problems dealt with.
It is estimated that around 80 per cent of people of reproductive age will be infected with a HPV virus at some point in their lives. These are transmitted through skin to skin contact. It means that it’s possible for anyone to contract HPV through contact with someone who already has the virus.
However, Emilia is keen to point out that, while HPV infection is common it is rare that it goes on to become cervical cancer: “Most women are infected with HPV at some point in their lives but will probably never know they have been infected. Like other viral infections such as a cold, HPV is usually cleared by the body’s immune system without the need for other treatment.
“There are usually no symptoms with an HPV infection and sometimes no symptoms with early stage cervical cancer, so the only way to really check and make sure everything is OK is to attend your cervical screening test when called every three years.
“Cervical screening saves lives and all women should attend when called for their smear test. With early detection and treatment up to 75 per cent of cervical cancers can be stopped from developing.”
Notes to editors
Every year in the UK, 5,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer and nearly 1000 women die from the disease. That’s three women every day.
More information on cervical screening available from NHS 24, visit: www.nhs24.com/cervicalscreening or contact the NHS Helpline tel: 0800 22 44 88
You can also find information about cervical cancer and the cervical screening programme from the NHS inform website at www.nhsinform.co.uk
For further information either tel: 0141 201 4429 or email: [email protected]