THOUSANDS of women are missing potentially lifesaving smear tests in Blackburn with Darwen.

New NHS figures show that of the 39,747 women who should have had the screening done as of 2018/19, almost a third of women – or 12,123 – in the borough haven’t had their smear test.

In total, 69.5 per cent of eligible women aged 25 to 64 have had the routine five-minute test, far below the national target of 80 per cent, and a concern as the smears can help prevent cervical cancer, the most common cancer in women aged 35 and under.

Health chiefs said reasons for women not attending smears included fear, embarrassment or shame, considering themselves as low risk, or not understanding what cervical screening is.

Dr Neil Smith, the clinical lead for cancer at Blackburn with Darwen and East Lancashire Clinical Commissioning Groups, said that getting people to talk about cancer was important.

He said: “Across all areas and age ranges achieving national targets for screening uptake is challenging and in many areas uptake is declining. Earlier this year we launched our ‘Let’s Talk Cancer’ campaign to try to support people talk a little more about their thoughts and fears around cancer. We are hoping that by making people not afraid to talk about cancer it will encourage more people to attend appointments for cancer screening.”

Dominic Harrison, director of public health at Blackburn with Darwen Council, said the council was doing all it can to work with the NHS to help deliver their target of improving cervical cancer screening rates.

He said: “Through our joint working with the CCG and other partners to integrate services via the new Primary Care Neighbourhoods, we have worked with groups including the Awaaz Women’s Group, based at Little Harwood Health Centre, on how they can help support more BME women to attend cancer screening appointments, as well as training cancer champions who pass on information and key messages around their neighbourhoods.

“We have seen an improvement in cervical cancer screening rates in the north of Blackburn – where all six GP practices saw screening uptake increased between October 2018 to May 2019.”