27,000 women putting lives at risk by failing to turn up for smear tests
ALMOST 27,000 women in the Bristol area are putting their lives at risk by failing to turn up for smear tests.
NHS Bristol figures show that one in four women in the city fail to arrange appointments for their cervical smears, which can identify changes in the cervix that could lead to cancer. In North Somerset, South Gloucestershire and Bath and North East Somerset about one in five women are not attending for cervical screening.
Health experts in the city have joined forces with Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust in cervical cancer prevention week to urge women to book and attend their appointments.
All women between 25 and 64 years are regularly invited by their GP to attend a cervical screening test but thousands are failing to organise appointments.
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A survey by the charity Jo's Trust has found that women from black and minority ethnic (BME) groups were less likely to attend their screening appointment than white women, while another survey found that only one-third of women from ethnic minority groups felt confident that they knew the risks of not receiving screening compared to more than half of white women.
Dr Ardiana Gjini, consultant in public health, said: "A woman's risk of cervical cancer is not changed by ethnicity or sexual orientation.
"Each year around 3,000 women in England are diagnosed with cervical cancer and about 800 women will die from it.
"Most of these deaths are preventable if abnormal changes are found early and treated – this is why we have a screening programme.
"The message to all women is: attending your smear test could save your life."
A smear test is not a test for cancer, but looks for abnormal cell changes on the cervix which can then be treated. However, if they are left untreated the cell changes may develop into cancer.
The test is a relatively quick procedure and can be carried out at a GP, family planning or sexual health clinic.
Risk factors for cervical cancer include smoking, but the NHS said the biggest risk comes from women not attending their screening appointment.
For further information about cervical screening tests contact your GP or visit www.nhs.uk/cervicalscreening.