Local health leaders are reminding women across Cambridgeshire that cervical cancer screening could save their life, as part of Cervical Cancer Prevention Week.
The Cambridgeshire County Council Health Committee recently looked at this issue and were concerned that the percentage of women attending cervical cancer screening in Cambridgeshire is falling.
Cervical screening is recommended every 3 years for women aged between 25 and 49, and every 5 years for women between 50 and 64.
In 2014, around one in four women in Cambridgeshire had not been screened within the correct time period, and in Cambridge City, this rose to more than one in three women. The number of women attending for cervical screening appointments has been declining across Cambridgeshire and in Cambridge City cervical screening rates declined by almost eight per cent over five years.
Cervical Cancer Prevention Week, a national campaign by Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust, aims to raise awareness of the ways in which cervical cancer can be prevented or detected early through screening before there are any symptoms. It also explains what symptoms to look out for, but the outlook is often worse once there are symptoms.
Cambridgeshire County Councillor Kilian Bourke, Chairman of the Council's Health Committee said: "I was taken aback when I saw the figures in this year's Annual Public Health report, and requested that more detail be brought before the Health Committee. The figures presented to us last week confirm that there has been a steady decline in screening rates across the county, particularly in Cambridge City, which lags 13% below the national average.
"This is very concerning and calls for concerted action. A screening test only takes a few minutes and can detect abnormalities early, meaning that cervical cancer can be prevented. Significantly lower figures like we are seeing in Cambridge quite simply mean that more women will experience cervical cancer, some of whom will unnecessarily lose their lives.
"I strongly urge women to contact their GP to see if they are overdue for an appointment. I hope that NHS England will lead on the production of a local action plan to address this concern. We will support this work in any way possible.'
Dr Liz Robin, Director for Public Health for Cambridgeshire County Council, added: "Cervical cancer is largely preventable thanks to cervical screening and the HPV vaccination programme, but can be deadly if it isn't caught and treated early. On average, six women die of cervical cancer in Cambridgeshire each year and two women are diagnosed each month. "
Women who are overdue for a cervical screening appointment can contact their GP practice to book an appointment. Further information is available on the NHS Cancer Screening website www.cancerscreening.nhs.uk/