Fears over missed cancer tests

A quarter of women in Sunderland are not turning up for potentially life-saving cancer tests, according to the latest figures.

A quarter miss cancer tests.
A quarter miss cancer tests.

Data from NHS Digital shows that just 75% of the 74,647 women in the area eligible for a cervical cancer smear test by the end of last year attended a screening and had a clear result.

Rates varied between the age groups – with 77% of 50 to 64-year-olds being screened, compared to 73% of 25 to 49-year-olds.

Nationally, 70% of eligible women had an adequate screening by the end of 2021, against a national target of 80%.

Cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer in women and can be detected early by tests which are offered to women aged 25 to 49 every three years, with those aged 50 to 64 invited for a test every five years.

A leading cervical cancer charity says women are still skipping the procedures because of fear, embarrassment, or a lack of understanding of what they involve.

Samantha Dixon, chief executive of Jo's Trust, said: “There is no one reason behind falling cervical screening attendance. These include NHS pressures, fear, embarrassment and not knowing what the test is for or thinking it is relevant.

"Cervical Screening Awareness Week was an ideal time to provide tips, reminders and signpost to support about the test, but work is needed all year round to tackle barriers and support more to attend this potentially life-saving test.”

Cancer Research UK estimates that cervical screening saves at least 2,000 lives annually in the UK.