Woman with incurable cancer says don't avoid smear tests

Deborah put off having a smear test - she has cervical cancer. Credit: ITV West Country

It's a free, five-minute test that saves more than 4000 lives every year in the UK. But in the South West, a third of women aren't going for cervical smear tests - the quickest way of finding out who is at risk of cervical cancer.

The take-up rate is particularly low for young women, even though it's the most common type of cancer in their age group.

27-year-old Deborah Cooper from Bourton in Wiltshire has chemotherapy for her cervical cancer every three weeks at the Great Western Hospital in Swindon. It was picked up after a cervical screening (or 'smear') test she almost didn't have.

The test detected an abnormality in her cervical cells, but it was already too late.

Women aged 25 to 49 are offered a cervical smear test every three years on the NHS. For women aged 50 to 64 it's every five years. Women who have had the HPV vaccine are still advised to have smear tests.

The problem is that it is not a popular procedure. A third of women in our region aren't going for their smear tests. The numbers are particularly low for those under 35: an age group which is now seeing a rise in cervical cancer.

Jade Goody died aged 27 in 2009 after a seven-month battle against cervical cancer. Credit: PA Images

The reality TV star Jade Goody had a big impact on smear test uptake. Her death from cervical cancer in 2009 saw a surge in test rates.

Deborah only wishes she could turn back the clock.

Deborah's facing her situation with bravery and honesty. For other women, it's a situation that could be prevented by a simple test.

For information and support, visit Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust www.jostrust.org.uk or call their free helpline on 0808 802 8000

You can also find more on cervical smear tests on the NHS webpage

Watch the full ITV West Country report below: