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The importance of smear tests as figures show 3 in 10 don't attend NHS cervical cancer screening

The NHS Cervical Screening Programme 2022-2023 annual report, found that attendance of cervical screening had dropped from 69.9% the previous year to 68.7% for those aged 25 to 64. 

The attendance levels to invitations sent by the NHS to patients were higher for 50 to 64-year-olds at 74.4%, compared to 65.8% for 25 to 49-year-olds.  

It's a real worry that statistics for attendance are decreasing, therefore, attending a cervical screening appointment could be lifesaving. 

What is cervical screening?

Cervical screening is a process whereby a nurse takes a small sample of cells from your cervix using a small brush. This is often referred to as a smear test and on average takes a few minutes to complete. The cells are then sent off and tested for traces of cervical cancer or abnormal cells.

Why attend?

Screening helps prevent cervical cancer by testing for Human Papillomavirus (HPV).  This is found in over 99% of call cervical cancers and it's a virus which may cause abnormal cells to develop in the cervix. 

If left untreated, these cells, over time, can turn into cervical cancer. This is why it's so important to attend your routine cervical screening invitations so that cervical cancer can be detected or prevented. 

What if you've had the HPV vaccination?

It's still important to attend cervical screening even if you have been vaccinated against HPV as there are different types of HPV and the vaccine doesn't provide protection against them all. 

The key message is therefore if you receive an invitation to attend for cervical screening, or you are concerned that you have not received one or it's overdue, do call your GP surgery and make that appointment. 

When should women be invited for a cervical cancer screening appointment?

In the UK, cervical screening invitations are sent to women who are registered with a GP surgery as routine once every three years if you're aged between 25 and 49 and once every five years if aged 50 to 64. 

For those over 65, you are only invited if a recent test was abnormal.  Additional tests and screening may take place more frequently than this if results are abnormal. 

Support available 

Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust is the UK’s leading cervical cancer charity which offers support for those for anyone who has concerns or questions about cervical screening, HPV, the HPV vaccine or cervical cancer. 

Its support services are available to anyone who has been affected, or if you have a loved one who has been affected by cervical cancer or cervical cell changes. 

At Irwin Mitchell we work closely with Jo’s Trust to offer support to our clients and their families who have been diagnosed with cervical cancer. 

As a medical negligence solicitor, I've supported clients who have suffered a delay in diagnosis of cervical cancer and charities such as Jo’s Trust is such an invaluable tool for clients and their families in terms of offering that additional support. 

More information about NHS England's annual report is available online. :

Find out more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise in supporting people and their families affected by missed diagnoses and healthcare issues at our dedicated medical negligence section.