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Embarrassment 'puts women off' smear tests

22 January 2019 09:05

220,000 women are diagnosed with cervical abnormalities every year

220,000 women are diagnosed with cervical abnormalities every year

Young women are being put off going for a smear test because they feel embarrassed and have concerns about being hurt, a new survey suggests.

Data from the charity Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust found women aged between 25 and 35 are also put off by the idea of a stranger examining them.

Figures show screening rates for cervical cancer are at their lowest for two decades, with almost one in three women aged 25-64 not having had a smear test within the recommended timeframe.

Around 220,000 British women were diagnosed with cervical abnormalities every year, with 854 deaths from cervical cancer recorded in England in 2016.


Cervical screening helps pick up changes to cells that could eventually lead to cancer.

The survey found that of 915 women who have delayed a test or never gone for screening, 71% felt scared and 75% felt vulnerable.

Eight out of 10 (81%) said they felt embarrassed, while 67% said they would not feel in control.

When asked what had caused them to delay or miss a test, 72% said embarrassment, while 69% felt uncomfortable with a stranger examining an intimate area.

Almost six in 10 (58%) were scared it would hurt, while 37% did not know what would happen during the test.

Of all women surveyed, 68% said they would not tell their nurse about their worries, with almost half saying they regularly delayed or did not go for tests.

Other concerns among all women were a fear of being judged (18%) or thinking their concerns were too silly or small (16%).

Best protection

The charity is launching its #SmearForSmear campaign as part of cervical cancer prevention week.

Robert Music, chief executive of Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust said: "Smear tests provide the best protection against cervical cancer yet we know they aren't always easy.

"We want women to feel comfortable talking to their nurse and asking questions.

"It's not making a fuss and there are many ways to make the test easier.

"Please don't let your fears stop you booking a test."

Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust surveyed just over 2,000 young women about their experiences.

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