MORE than 30,000 women in East Lancashire have failed to attend a cervical cancer screening in five years, according to new figures.
Nearly one in four eligible women did not attend a smear test between 2008 and 2013, prompting concerns from campaigners ahead of Cervical Cancer Awareness Week, which starts on Sunday.
In Blackburn with Darwen, just 74 per cent of eligible women had been screened in the last five years, the 23rd lowest rate out of about 150 NHS areas. The figure for the rest of East Lancashire was 78 per cent, which was in line with the national average.
Women between the ages of 25 and 64 receive a letter through the post from their GP when they are due for a screening, but the statistics released by the Health and Social Care Information Centre show thousands are failing to take up the offer.
Rosie Hollis, from Darwen, knows just how important the screenings are, after tests revealed she had cervical cancer in 2010.
She was later given the all-clear after her uterine cervix was surgically removed, with no need for chemotherapy or radiotherapy.
The 28-year-old requested her screening before she turned 25, and has since campaigned for the NHS to offer routine tests to younger women.
She said: “These figures are concerning and upsetting, as going for these tests shouldn’t be taboo anymore.
“Some women would rather not know, or they’re worried about the slight embarrassment and discomfort of having it done. But it’s really tedious to hear of the embarrassment about it, people just need to deal with it.”
National surveys suggest that women from Asian and ethnic minority groups are ‘less sure of their cervical cancer risk than white women’, which Rosie said may account for the lower test rates locally.