Today marks the beginning of Cervical Cancer Prevention Week, so it’s a good time to think about screenings.
New research by The Eve Appeal, a gynaecological cancer charity, shows that Covid-19 has stopped women from getting a smear test.
Over the last 12 months, 28% of women haven’t attended their screening despite receiving their invitation.
From the age of 25, women are invited to have a cervical screening test as a preventive measure to test for signs of cancer. It’s estimated to save 4,000 lives each year.
However, high numbers of the people that chose not to get their screening – nearly one in three – failed to attend due to being put off by the pandemic.
10% of those surveyed didn’t attend their test last year because they thought Covid-19 restrictions would prevent appointments from going ahead as normal.
Tests are still running throughout the UK – even now in the third national lockdown – but The Eve Appeal says some women and people with a cervix are finding it hard to get an appointment.
This is due to backlog of appointments, capacity issues, and some locations not having Covid-safe spaces.
For 21% of the people who didn’t attend, worries about coronavirus were their main motivator for missing their appointment.
Other reasons people didn’t attend included simply not wanting the screening (17%), having a bad experience on their last screening (17%), believing it would be too difficult to have a test (15%), and feeling it wasn’t a priority (13%).
In a time of an international health crisis it’s understandable to see a routine screening as non-urgent, but appointments are still running and it’s important to go if you’re invited.
The Eve Appeal themselves who have a free advice service called Ask Eve found that over two-thirds of calls they received were about cervical cancer screenings, with patients reporting feelings of anxiety and confusion in delays with their tests.
Karen Hobbs, who runs the nurse-led information service says: ‘Cervical Screening is by far the most common topic we get calls about at Ask Eve, and we have seen a huge increase in people concerned about not being able to get an appointment, or their appointment being postponed.
‘Cervical cancer is a disease that typically develops very slowly, so whilst a few months delay to someone’s routine screening appointment is unlikely to make a difference to the test results, the cancellation of appointments and longer waiting periods have undoubtedly had a serious effect on stress and health anxiety levels.’
This Cervical Cancer Prevention Week, The Eve Appeal wants to encourage everyone who can to book and attend their cervical screening test when invited.
With the potential of some delays to screening across the country it’s important that people are aware of symptoms and see their GPs with their concerns.
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