More than 10,000 women in South Tyneside missed their last smear test

Checking for cervical cancer under a microscope. Picture by PA Archive/PA Images
Checking for cervical cancer under a microscope. Picture by PA Archive/PA Images

More than 10,000 women in South Tyneside did not attend their potentially lifesaving smear test, according to new NHS figures.

The take-up rate for cervical screenings in South Tyneside has fallen for the third consecutive year.

Coun Tracey Dixon.

Coun Tracey Dixon.

Only 73.7% of the 38,700 women who were due a smear test before the end of March attended an appointment - meaning around 10,200 women missed out on the ‘life-saving’ programme.

Cancer charities have said the “plummeting” attendance rate in England is enormously worrying and a leading councillor in the borough has urged more woman to have the tests.

In South Tyneside, the younger age group were less likely to be up to date with their tests.

Just 73.5% of 25 to 40-year-olds had attended their last appointment before the end of March compared to 74% of 50 to 64-year-olds.

Coun Tracey Dixon, lead member for independence and wellbeing, said: “These are very worrying statistics, especially as they show it is younger women who are less likely to be up to date with the test.

“Smear tests only take a matter of minutes but it is time that could well save your life.

“The screening plays a crucial role in detecting and preventing the development of cancer so it’s really important to go along and have the test. If you missed your last appointment, call your GP and book yourself in for the test as soon as possible.”

Attendance across England has fallen for the fourth year in a row, reaching 71.4% last year.

Robert Music, chief executive of Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, said: “These statistics are highly frustrating and, coupled with rising cervical cancer diagnoses, an enormous worry.

“Women in England are frankly being let down. Many struggle to get screening appointments.

“We cannot sit back and let cervical screening coverage continue to plummet.

Karis Betts, from Cancer Research UK, said there were a number of reasons why some women might not attend their smear test.

She said: “Some women don’t know screening is for people without symptoms and there can also be practical or cultural reasons why they might find it difficult to make an appointment.

“We know screening saves 2,000 lives each year, so we would encourage people to think about taking part when they receive their invitation.”

Professor Anne Mackie, director of screening at Public Health England, which runs the cervical screening programme, said the declining take-up rate was “of real concern”.

She continued: “We know that for some women worries about embarrassment or discomfort can put them off.

“If they are concerned they can ask a GP or practice nurse who can explain what’s involved and help them make a choice about screening.

“We’re supporting the NHS to reach more women by raising awareness about the test, and early next year we’re launching a Be Clear on Cancer campaign focusing on the importance of cervical screening.”