South East Wales

Cervical cancer screening: One in four in Wales miss test

One in four women fail to go for cervical cancer screening in Wales, with Cardiff recording the nation's lowest figures, figures show.

The charity Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust calls the decline worrying and more women are being urged to go for a test.

Almost 40,000 in Cardiff did not have the test in 2010/11 and a bus advert campaign will target the city.

Campaigners blame increasingly busy lives, surgery opening times and a fear of the test for the low uptake.

For women in the younger and older age groups, numbers slip below the national average with 24.3% of 25 to 29-year-olds and 24.8% of 60 to 64-year-olds missing the test.

Karen Holroyd, from Barry, Vale of Glamorgan, missed tests and was diagnosed with the disease at the age of 30.

"I urge everyone to have their smear tests, I realise now how important they really are," the mother-of-one told BBC Wales.

In February 2010 Ms Holroyd began experiencing heavy bleeding which was was put down to an infection.

Ms Holroyd admits she had not gone for a smear test "for years".

In August that year she was seen by a different doctor who immediately carried out an internal examination, and was sent to the emergency gynaecology unit at the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff.

"They they told me there and then what they thought it was."

Early menopause

A biopsy revealed Ms Holroyd had had stage 2B cervical cancer which had spread to her lymph nodes.

"I was absolutely distraught. I cannot even begin to explain how I felt," she said.

She immediately began chemotherapy, radiotherapy and brachytherapy.

"That obviously affected my fertility, it brought on early menopause and my partner and I had only just been discussing having children," she said.

Last June, Ms Holroyd was told the primary cancer had gone but the disease was still present in her lymph nodes which could be controlled, not cured, with chemotherapy.

"I went home and did my own research and found out I could have a type of radiotherapy, called CyberKnife, which targets the area more specifically than normal radiotherapy," she said.

After initially being told she would have to fund the treatment herself, Ms Holroyd launched the campaign Karen's Cause and was eventually granted the treatment on the NHS.

The tumours have now shrunk and Ms Holroyd is awaiting further test results.

"It's so important to make sure you have your smear tests," she added.

'More career-driven'

Until 18 June, buses in Cardiff will carrying the message "Cervical screening saves lives" down the side in conjunction with Cervical Screening Awareness Week from 10-16 June.

A Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust spokeswoman said: "There are a whole variety of reasons as to why women are missing out on the test.

"We're much busier now, more career-driven and don't have the time to take time off to fit in with GPs' opening hours.

"Some girls have a fear of the test because it's quite intimate, they think it will hurt."

Robert Music, director of Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust, said: "Each year, the UK screening programme saves 5,000 lives, yet one in four Welsh women are not attending their cervical screening test.

"With such a worrying decline in numbers, our campaign is also targeting Cardiff, where uptake is 73.7% - the lowest in the country.

"Adverts urging eligible women to get screened will adorn buses across the city with a potential to reach 92% of the city's population."

"Another major contributing factor to women not attending is embarrassment and fear of the procedure.

"We want to reverse this trend by reassuring those who are nervous about the test that it's a simple five-minute procedure that could save their life," the spokeswoman added.

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