Women from across the North East are being given a chance to make their voice heard as a researcher looks to get to the root of why the take up of cervical checks are falling.
Angela Wearn, a PhD researcher and demonstrator at Northumbria University is looking for people from across the region to join in her project, which will in turn help health professionals understand the reasons why some avoid their appointments and others strive to keep up to date with their tests for abnormal cells.
She was pushed to launch the research after statistics showed the take up rate nationally is at a 20-year low - although increases have been seen in the wake of the death of reality star Jade Goody in 2009 to cervical cancer and anecdotally in the Sunderland area after Amber Rose Cliff lost her life to the disease last year.
Amber’s father Darren, 52, has said he is “100% behind” the project as the Amber’s Law campaign to lower the age and raise the profile of the checks continues.
It comes on the first anniversary of the 25-year-old Gentoo worker’s death.
Amber, who lived in Ashbrooke, had raised concerns with her GP on at least 10 occasions, but because she was under the age where tests are routinely carried out.
At the age of 21, she paid for a private check, which discovered she had cancer.
As a woman myself and living in this community, I wanted to go out and speak to these women and ask their options and listen to what they have to say and be a bit more personal about it.Angela Wearn
Darren said: “Amber’s case wasn’t isolated, we’ve heard about it happening all over the country.
“We’ve had messages from women saying they’ve gone for their test after reading about her.”
The Amber’s Law Facebook page urges: “Don’t make excuses of I haven’t got time or it hurts.
“It’s 5 minutes of slight uncomfortable pain, which could save your life.”
Angela said: “The uptake rate is a concern in itself because cervical smears is a life-saving procedure, but really, just from being a researcher around this area there seem to be two stories for why this is.
“They say it’s embarrassing for them and a lot of people comment and say ‘For me, it’s just that I’m so busy’ so it’s looking at these and other issues in a meaningful way.
“Some are really worried about the outcome and what it could mean.
“As a woman myself and living in this community, I wanted to go out and speak to these women and ask their options and listen to what they have to say and be a bit more personal about it. “From there, we want to look at how the rates can be increased and how we can work together to address the most important barriers for them and see how we can help.
“It’s all anonymous and it is all completely confidential.”
In time, Angela is looking to launch a focus group to look at the difficulties raised by the women.
Angela can be emailed via firstname.lastname@example.org and she has also set up a Twitter account, @HealthPsychCSR.