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Smear test confusion 'puts women at risk'

28 February 2019 09:16

A smear test is used to detect cervical cancer

A smear test is used to detect cervical cancer

Over one in five women in the UK wrongly think a smear test can detect ovarian cancer, new research has revealed.

Smear tests are actually used to detect cervical cancer and this misconception could be putting as many as 22% of women at risk, according to Target Ovarian Cancer and YouGov.

Cancer Research UK figures show more women died from ovarian cancer in the UK (4,227) than from all other gynaecological cancers combined in 2016 alone.


Pat Taylor, 67, from Carrickfergus in Northern Ireland, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2017 and warned women to be aware of the symptoms of the illness.

She said: "I had always thought cervical screening detected ovarian cancer, and that I was covered when I had my smear tests.

"When I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2017 after a two-year delay, it was such a shock. Now I want all women to be vigilant of the symptoms of ovarian cancer - better awareness will save lives."

Symptoms for ovarian cancer include persistently feeling bloated, a loss of appetite, pelvic or abdominal pain and needing to urinate more regularly and urgently, according to charity Target Ovarian Cancer.

Combat confusion

Annwen Jones, chief executive of the charity, said: "We need to combat the confusion around ovarian cancer and cervical screening, because while smear tests are a vital tool in public health, a similar option simply does not exist in ovarian cancer."

March is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, when Target Ovarian Cancer tries to raise awareness of the disease.

Ms Jones added: "While we welcome Government investment in raising awareness of the cervical screening programme this March, the ovarian cancer community is painfully aware that 11 women die every day from ovarian cancer and we urgently need to see a national ovarian cancer symptoms awareness campaign."

As part of the survey, YouGov asked 1,070 women about ovarian cancer.

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