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Smear tests – ten minutes to save your life

Smear tests for younger women have shown a marked drop in recent years so barely half are taking this vital test.

The Jade Goody effect

It was 8 years ago, back in 2009, when reality TV star Jade Goody was diagnosed with and then died from cervical cancer.  She was just 27 years old and left two young sons. Abnormal cells were identified on her cervical smear tests but too late to provide treatment.

The media coverage during her illness and death shocked the nation. The idea that cervical cancer could cause death in younger women was a great eye opener for many.

During 2009 it was reported that over the previous year there was a twelve per cent upsurge in eligible women having their cervical smear tests.

At the time this increase was called the ‘Jade Goody’ effect. It was hailed as a triumph of education. Furthermore it was hoped that this might lead to early detection and treatment for potential sufferers.

The position now

Less than 8 years since Jade’s death Public Health England has reported a huge change. They report that only 62% of eligible women between the ages of 25 to 29 are taking up the offer of a cervical smear test.

It begs the question – has the ‘Jade Goody’ effect worn off?

Smear Testing – The History

The cervical smear test programme was rolled out in the UK in 1988. Since that time the number of cervical cancer cases has decreased by around 7% each year. Campaigners say this is down to the success of the cervical smear screening programme.

Since 1988, the number of women being diagnosed with cervical cancer has reduced from 4,100 per year to 2,300 per year in 2010. It is estimated that smear testing saves as many as 5,000 lives per year.

Smear Testing – Facts and Figures

Why is it so important to have a cervical smear test?

  1. Regular screening means that abnormal, or pre-cancerous, cells in the cervix can be identified early and treated early to prevent cervical cancer;
  2. All women in the UK are offered screening. Although it is not compulsory, it is the choice of the individual whether or not they have the ‘smear test’. The option is provided every 3 years for women aged 25 – 49 and every 5 years thereafter up to the age of 64 with those aged over 65 only being offered screening if they have not been tested since aged fifty;
  3. Statistics show that out of 100 women screened, 94 have a normal result, out of the remaining six tested, four require further investigations; and
  4. According to Public Health England, the current screening programme prevents 70% of cervical cancer deaths but if every woman attended regular screening 83% of cases could be prevented.

smear tests
Smear test take only 10 minutes and could be life saving

Our Comment

It is shocking that so few eligible young women are having the smear test. The figures clearly show it is vitally important to attend the screening appointments.

So why is uptake for the smear test so low?

It is speculated that the lack of uptake in young women may be due to embarrassment, lack of understanding or feeling they are too busy.  A smear test takes less than ten minutes in the GP surgery. Those ten minutes could save your life.

As with all screenings, it is not 100% accurate and does not prevent all cases of cervical cancer. In our field of work, we do occasionally come across ladies who have been misdiagnosed following routine cervical smear tests. Those who have not taken the test have no cause of action if it is detected too late.

Whatever personal misgivings people may have, we would urge every person reading this article to attend their smear test appointment regularly.

  1. There is nothing to be embarrassed about;
  2. It takes less than ten minutes; and

As lawyers we deal with people who have been diagnosed with cancer too late to get treatment. Seldom can we show that they can make a claim. Smear tests are a quick, simple and reliable test which could save your life. For more information about how to book a test and why click here

 If this story has affected you then contact our specialist all female team. Click here for further help


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