UK women too ‘embarrassed’ to go for cervical screenings

22 January 2018    by - Dr Pandelis Athanasias

It was today reported that many women in the UK fail to go for smear tests due to embarrassment over the appearance of their vaginas, amongst other reasons.

A recent survey of over 2,000 British women was carried out by Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust and almost one-third of respondents said they were too embarrassed to undergo regular smear tests.

Reasons for non-attendance

Five million UK women are invited to attend free cervical screenings each year. Of those, around one in four fail to attend.

The survey found that 35% of women don’t go because of concerns over body shape, while 34% were worried about the appearance of their vulva. A further 38% were worried over smells.

Embarrassment aside, many young women surveyed were simply unaware that they were the most at-risk group, suggesting a need for better education surrounding cervical screenings.

Moreover, there are concerns over geography, with some areas being worse than others for non-attendance. The charity found that one-third of local healthcare providers and councils have failed to try to increase the numbers of eligible women attending their cervical screenings.

Why are cervical screenings important?

Cervical cancer is the most common cause of cancer in women under 35, with around 3,000 new cases being diagnosed every year. Research shows that 75% of all cervical cancers are prevented from developing due to early detection of abnormal cells and treatment.

If irregular cells are left untreated or are ignored, they can develop into cervical cancer. Quite simply – cervical screenings save lives.

Fast, pain-free procedure

Cervical screenings are a preventative measure used to detect any abnormal cells in the cervix. The procedure is fast and painless, usually only taking around 5-10 minutes. During the screening, a speculum and small brush are inserted in order to remove a sample of cells from the neck of the cervix. NHS results are typically returned back within two weeks, though this varies from location.

In most cases, results will be normal, though a small number of women will have an abnormal smear result and will be asked to return for further testing or treatment.

All women over 25 should attend screenings every three years so that cell changes can be monitored and treated if necessary, in order to stop cervical cancer from developing.

See A Consultant