When a letter arrives in the post, inviting you to your next smear test, it's not uncommon to feel a sense of dread. But shocking new research released today has found that 5,346,000 women are not up-to-date with their cervical screening appointments.
Incredibly, 1.1 million women admit they have never had the potentially life-saving test, with pain, embarrassment and struggling to get an appointment chiefly to blame. 1 in 4 women said they feel embarrassed getting undressed in front of a doctor, 3 in 4 have had a bad experience in the past and 1 in 2 women can't even get an appointment when they try to book in for their smear. The research, commissioned by GynaeHealth UK to launch their Target100,000 campaign, reveals the average UK woman is 672 days late for her smear test appointment. Target 100,000 aims to involve all women in the UK in cervical cancer screening, whether through NHS screening, or a new at-home test, called GynaeCheck.
By offering at home screening with GynaeCheck, GynaeHealth UK hope to overcome some of the barriers associated with intimate screening and engage more women in testing for cervical cancer. GynaeCheck can be done in your own bedroom or bathroom and takes a fluid sample from the cervix. It's not to replace NHS screening which is still the best way, but it's an option for women who struggle to attend.
"GynaeCheck is easy and pain-free to use and is very much like inserting a tampon," explains Dr Pixie McKenna. "It only takes three seconds to collect a sample," she adds.
3,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year in the UK, but the disease is largely treatable if diagnosed early.
For those who test positive for high-risk strains of HPV, GynaeHealth UK will explain the results and provide advice on the next steps, directing women to their GPs or gynaecologist. Those who have a clear result are advised to test again in two years' time.