Thousands of women in Sandwell and West Birmingham put lives at risk as screening attendance falls

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Thousands of women in Sandwell and West Birmingham are putting their lives at risk as they fail to take up the offer of a smear test. The latest figures reveal that attendance of cervical screening in England has declined for the fourth consecutive year.  

In Sandwell and West Birmingham, the latest figures show that screening has dropped to 66% in the last year with over 48,300 women not taking up their screening invitation. Screening in women aged 25-49 has dropped to 63% and women aged 50-64 has dropped to 73%. The national target is 80%.

NHS Sandwell and West Birmingham Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) is reminding women of the importance of attending regular smear tests for cervical cancer and is supporting the #SmearForSmear 2019 campaign, which runs from 21 - 27 January 2019 during Cervical Cancer Prevention Week.

Every year in the UK, around 3,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer, two women lose their lives to the disease every day and is the most common cancer in women aged 35 and under. Thanks to cervical screening and the HPV vaccination programme, 75% of cervical cancers can be prevented – but the uptake of cervical screening is going down every year.

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 Nick Harding, a local GP and Chair for NHS Sandwell and West Birmingham CCG, said: “As we see screening coverage go down year on year, we are also seeing the numbers diagnosed with cervical cancer rise. So, 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 detects early abnormalities in the cervix, so they can be treated before cancer develops. During the early stages, cervical cancer will not often have any symptoms and the best way for it to be detected is through screening. Prevention is the key to improving survival rates and cervical screening will save lives.”

The #SmearForSmear 2019 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 2019 visit