Young women put off smear tests due to feelings of embarrassment and concerns about being hurt, a survey suggests.
New data from the charity Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust found that those aged 25 to 35 are also put off by the idea of a stranger examining them.
Figures show that cervical screening rates among all ages are at their lowest for two decades.
Almost one in three women aged 25 to 64 have not had a smear test within the timeframe recommended for their age.
Some 220,000 British women are diagnosed with cervical abnormalities every year and there were 854 deaths from cervical cancer in England in 2016.
Cervical screening helps pick up changes to cells that could eventually lead to cancer.
Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust surveyed just over 2,000 young women about their experiences.
It found that of 915 women who have delayed a test or never gone for screening, 71% felt scared while 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%).
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.”