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72% of women too embarrassed to attend smear test

Wednesday 24th January 2018
Nurses can play a key role in reassuring women ahead of a smear test appointment. Image: DragonImages via iStock
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    More needs to be done to reassure young women about smear test appointments, as new research has revealed 75 per cent of those who do not attend their cervical cancer screenings are too embarrassed or fear judgement from their nurse.

    This is according to a report from the charity Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust, which shows that less than three-quarters (72 per cent) of women eligible for an NHS smear test attended their appointment in the 2016-17 period.

    Fear of embarrassment was cited as the top reason why patients fail to attend their appointments, followed by concerns over their body shape, which 35 per cent gave as their reason for not going.

    Meanwhile, 34 per cent said they were worried about the shape of their vulva and 38 per cent were concerned about the smell of their vagina, while a further third admitted that they wouldn't attend their appointment if they hadn't shaved or waxed their pubic area.

    Yet 15 per cent of those who did not attend their smear tests revealed they would view a gym class or a waxing appointment as a more important engagement to keep.

    All of this is despite cervical cancer being the most common form of cancer affecting women aged 35 and under. Two-thirds of those who are diagnosed with the disease do not know they are at risk - something their smear test could have helped to detect, allowing them to receive appropriate preventative treatment.

    With these findings in mind, Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust is trying to reassure young women that performing smear tests is a regular part of nurses' daily roles, and that embarrassment should not prevent anyone from attending a potentially life-saving appointment. Indeed, statistics show that cervical screening helps to save as many as 5,000 lives in the UK every year.

    Chief executive of the charity Robert Music commented: "Please don't let unhappiness or uncertainty about your body stop you from attending what could be a life-saving test.

    "Nurses are professionals who carry out millions of tests every year - they can play a big part in ensuring women are comfortable."

    Written by James Puckle

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