Women in Birmingham and Solihull are being reminded of the importance of attending regular smear tests for cervical cancer as latest figures reveal that attendance of cervical screening in England is the lowest for two decades. NHS Birmingham and Solihull Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) are supporting the #SmearForSmear 2018 campaign, which runs from 22 – 28 January 2018 during Cervical Cancer Prevention Week.

Nine women are diagnosed with cervical cancer in the UK every day, and two women will lose their lives to the disease. Thanks to cervical screening and the HPV vaccination programme, cervical cancer is now largely preventable – although uptake of cervical screening is now going down every year.

Latest figures show that screening coverage has dropped in Birmingham and Solihull to 68% in the last year with over 98,000 women not taking up their screening invitation in the last year. Coverage in women aged 25-49 has dropped to 65% and women aged 50-64 has dropped to 75%. The national target is 80%

Women aged 25 to 49 are invited for cervical screening, also known as a smear test, every three years. After that, women are invited every five years until the age of 64. Since the introduction of cervical screening in the 1980s, the number of cervical cancer cases has decreased by about 7% each year across England.

For younger women, HPV vaccinations can help prevent seven out of 10 cervical cancers, and these are routinely given to girls across the country aged 12 and 13. This is a vaccination against the persistent human papillomavirus (HPV) infection that causes changes to the cervical cells and is responsible for nearly all cervical cancers.

Dr Richard Mendelsohn, a local GP and Chief Medical Officer for NHS Birmingham and Solihull CCGs, said: “Cervical cancer is the most common cancer in women under 35 and it is concerning to see the screening coverage go down year on year. We are urging all women aged 25-64 not to miss out on a vital smear test as it could save their life.

“Cervical screening is not a test for cancer. Screening actually prevents cancer by detecting early abnormalities in the cervix, so they can be treated. During the early stages, cervical cancer will not often have any symptoms and the best way for it to be detected is through a screening. Prevention is the key to improving survival rates and cervical screening will save lives.”

The #SmearForSmear 2018 campaign is run by Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, a UK charity dedicated to women affected by cervical cancer and cervical abnormalities. For more information on #SmearForSmear 2018 visit https://www.jostrust.org.uk/