Young women in Sussex urged to attend smear tests

Catherine Holtom was diagnosed with cervical cancer
Catherine Holtom was diagnosed with cervical cancer

Young women are least likely to attend cervical cancer screenings – leading to a rise in the number of 25 to 29-year-olds being diagnosed with the disease.

Figures from NHS Surrey and Sussex show there has been a rise in the number of women in the age group being diagnosed with cervical cancer, surpassing older women.

Getting women to attend their first invitation is key to ensuring regular attendance across their screening lifetime.

Dr Max Kammerling

A spokeswoman for NHS Surrey and Sussex said: “The majority of women diagnosed with cervical cancer have delayed their screening which has impacted on their ability to have early treatment.”

Between 2013/14, 69.2 per cent of women between 25 and 29 in West Sussex attended cervical screenings, compared to 70 per cent in East Sussex.

In Hastings and Rother, 69.8 per cent attended screenings and in Brighton and Hove, only 59.6 per cent of 25 to 29-year-olds

Catherine Holtom, from Horsham, was diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2012.

“I had a routine smear test in 2012 which came back abnormal and I was referred to the Colposcopy unit for LLETZ treatment and a biopsy was taken,” she said.

“Soon after I was told I had stage 1b cervical cancer and that it had spread into my lymph nodes.

“I was devastated and so scared about what was going to happen to me. I had to have chemoradiation but I was quite lucky as I didn’t suffer that much.

“I finished my treatment at the end of 2012 and luckily received my all clear in January 2013.

“All in all I am pretty well now and happy that life is back to normal. But what my story shows is how important it is to attend screening, it really saved my life.”

Cervical cancer is the most common form of cancer in women under 35 years but early diagnosis significantly increases the chances to combat the disease.

In the south east, almost 66 per cent of cervical cancers were diagnosed in women under the age of 50.

However, the number of women dying from cervical cancer has halved over the past 27 years as a result of the NHS screening programme as well as improvement in treatment.

Dr Max Kammerling, Screening and Immunisation Lead for Public Health England (Surrey and Sussex) said: “Many young women don’t understand the importance of attending their first screen when invited around their twenty-fifth birthday.

“The cervical screening test, often called a smear test, is a relatively simple procedure performed by the Practice Nurse at your GP Surgery which takes about 10 minutes. 95 per cent of results will be normal.

“The small number of results which are not normal can be treated very easily.

“Getting women to attend their first invitation is key to ensuring regular attendance across their screening lifetime.”

Robert Music, Chief Executive Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, which is working with NHS Surrey and Sussex, said: “Every day we see the devastating impact a cervical cancer diagnosis has on women and their family and friends.

“For those who were diagnosed after delaying their routine screening, knowing that cervical cancer could have been prevented is tragic.”

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