Smear tests reach 20-year low as women miss vital appointments out of embarrassment

Young women are putting off their cervical smear tests because they are embarrassed and don’t know what to expect, a survey has revealed.

Screening rates are now at a 20-year low and a third of woman have not have not had a smear test within the timeframe recommended for their age.

Cervical screenings help pick up abnormal cells that could eventually lead to cancer.

There were 854 deaths from cervical cancer in England in 2016 alone.

Around 220,000 British women are diagnosed with cervical abnormalities every year, demonstrating how hugely important getting screened is.

But new data the charity Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust found that 71% of women who haven’t been tested are scared of the procedure, while 75% felt vulnerable.

Around 67% said they would not feel in control during the procedure and 81% said they felt embarrassed.

When asked what had caused them to delay or miss a test, 72% said embarrassment, while 69% felt uncomfortable with a stranger examining their vagina.

Almost six in 10 (58%) were scared it would hurt, while 37% did not know what would happen during the test.

Of all women surveyed, 68% said they would not tell their nurse about their worries, with almost half saying they regularly delayed or did not go for tests.

Other concerns among all women were a fear of being judged (18%) or thinking their concerns were too silly or small (16%).

There is nothing to be ashamed about with smear tests – doctors and nurses have seen it all before.

If you are feeling self-conscious, you can ask for a female doctor to perform the examination.

For those who don’t know what to expect, this handy guide that will take you through what will happen.

Knowledge is power after all and the appointment could just save your life.

Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust is launching its #SmearForSmear campaign today as part of cervical cancer prevention week.

Robert Music, chief executive of 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.’