Cervical Cancer Prevention Week: Jo's Trust calls on women to attend smear tests as attendance falls

Smear test attendance rates are falling.
Smear test attendance rates are falling.

Feeling scared, vulnerable or embarrassed are some of the reasons why young women don't go to their cervical smear tests.

New research, revealed today at the start of Cervical Cancer Prevention Week, also found that two thirds of women surveyed (67%) said they would not feel in control at the prospect of a test.

As smear test attendance continues to plummet, Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust has revealed a wide range of new issues which it fears are contributing to the decline.

The charity is concerned that over two thirds (68%) of the women, aged between 25 and 35, questioned say they wouldn’t tell their nurse their smear test worries, with almost half admitting they regularly delay or don’t take up their invitation.

Seventy-one per cent of women say they feel scared, while 75% revealed they felt vulnerable at the thought of going.

Embarrassment also remains a key factor for many women (81%) ahead of their test.

Worries about making a fuss (27%), fear of being judged (18%) or thinking their concerns are too silly (16%) mean women may instead be avoiding the potentially life-saving check.

Jo's annual #SmearForSmear campaign launches today, in a bid to tackle the decline and acknowledge the fact that going for a smear test can be difficult.

Through the campaign it wants to highlight the support available to women as well as tips to make the test better.

Robert Music, Chief Executive, Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust said: “Smear tests provide the best protection against cervical cancer yet we know they aren’t always easy.

"We want women to feel comfortable talking to their nurse and asking questions. It’s not making a fuss and there are many ways to make the test easier. Please don’t let your fears stop you booking a test.”

When asked what has caused them to delay or miss a test, three quarters (72%) said embarrassment or a stranger examining an intimate area (69%).

Fear it will hurt (58%), not knowing how to talk to a stranger about intimate body parts (44%) and not knowing what will happen during the test (37%) were also given as reasons by high numbers of women.

The charity also found that high numbers of women who attend regular tests still feel body conscious, scared, vulnerable and not in control before their test.

Fear of cancer also appeared to be the biggest motivator for women who always go, cited by 60% as one of their biggest worries.

Lindsay was 29 when she was diagnosed with stage 1b cervical cancer after attending her first smear test, after ignoring invitations for a number of years.

She said: "The idea made me feel vulnerable and so I just didn't go. I had to have a hysterectomy to treat the cancer which meant I can't have any more children, this is still really hard to cope with. Please don't miss your smear test.

"A minute of feeling awkward is nothing compared to what I've been through and there are lots of things you can do to make the test better. "

Dr Phillippa Kaye, author, GP and Ambassador of Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, assured women across the country that nurses and doctors take millions of smear tests every year.

She added: "We honestly don’t think about what you’re wearing, what you look like, whether or not you’ve shaved - we just want to offer the best test we can to as many women as possible.

"We’ve seen and heard it all before and want to put your mind at ease if you have questions or concerns. Ask the things you want to know and remember you can say stop any time - it’s your test.”

The charity surveyed 2,005 women as part of its research.