New cervical cancer campaign launched with smear tests at 20-year low

A new cervical screening campaign has been launched by the government in the hope of reversing a 20-year low in women going for smear tests.

Two women every day in England die form cervical cancer and more than 200,000 women every year are diagnosed with abnormal cell changes which could lead to the disease.

However, official figures show that the proportion of women aged 25 to 64 who go for smear tests is currently at its lowest for two decades.

It comes amid fears that the 'Jade Goody effect', sparked by the Big Brother star's death from the disease in 2009, is wearing off.

Figures published by NHS Digital show that, as of the end of March last year, the percentage of eligible women screened adequately was just 71.4%.

Now, Public Health England (PHE) has launched the first government campaign on the issue, with adverts running in national media, social media and video on demand.

Surveys show that young women in particular are putting off their smear tests because they are embarrassed and do not know what to expect.

But experts predict that if everyone attended screening regularly, 83% of cervical cancer cases could be prevented.

Women going for smear tests is at a 20-year low, according to the NHS. Credit: PA

Professor Anne Mackie, director of screening programmes at PHE, said: "The decline in numbers getting screened for cervical cancer is a major concern as it means millions of women are missing out on a potentially life-saving test.

"We want to see a future generation free of cervical cancer but we will only achieve our vision if women take up their screening invitations.

"This is a simple test which takes just five minutes and could save your life. It's just not worth ignoring."

TV medic Dr Dawn Harper added: "Cervical screening is one of the most important things women can do to protect themselves from the risk of cervical cancer.

"Screening can stop cancer before it starts and saves thousands of lives every year.

"Some women are nervous or embarrassed about the test and put off having it done.

"While it's not the most enjoyable experience, most women say it wasn't as bad as expected and were glad they did it.

What are the symptoms of cervical cancer?

  • Unusual bleeding (during or after sex; between periods; after menopause)

  • Pain and discomfort during sex

  • Unusual vaginal discharge

  • Pain in lower back or pelvis

Advanced cervical cancer can cause:

  • Pain in your lower back or pelvis

  • Severe pain in your side or back caused by your kidneys

  • Constipation

  • Peeing or pooing more often than normal

  • Incontinence

  • Blood in urine

  • Swelling of one or both legs

  • Severe vaginal bleeding

For more information on cervical cancer visit the NHS website.