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Women over 50 'putting off cervical screening test'

One in three women over 50 has delayed or not attended their cervical screening test, which should take place every five years, according to a survey from a cervical cancer charity.

The average delay was more than two years, but one in 10 put off the test for more than five years.

Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust surveyed 1,000 women over 50.

It said not attending cervical screening was the biggest risk factor to developing cervical cancer.

The survey found a lack of understanding of cervical cancer and cancer screening among women in that age group.

As a result, by 2040, the charity said cases of cervical cancer were predicted to increase by 16% among 60-64 year-olds and by 85% among 70-74 year-olds if screening uptake stays at the same level.


Robert Music, chief executive at Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust, said diagnoses were on the rise with 3,207 women a year now learning that they are suffering from the condition.

"Cervical cancer is a preventable disease so it is extremely worrying that diagnoses have risen," he said.

"Women aged 50 to 64 are of particular concern as they are more likely to receive an advanced stage diagnosis, which means more invasive treatment, poorer health outcomes and increased risk of loss of life."

He said uptake of cervical screening was at an 18-year low of 72%.

In the survey, women over 50 gave a number of reasons for delaying their cervical screening test.

For example, a third found it embarrassing, a quarter found it hard to book an appointment at a convenient time and one in five found it a painful experience.

Nearly 40% said being sent an appointment with their cervical screening invitation would encourage them to go.

Jane Ellison, public health minister, pointed out that cervical screening saved 4,500 lives a year.

"Even as we get older, it is important that we spot any abnormalities early so we have a better chance of preventing cervical cancer," she said.

Cervical screening information

  • Across the whole of the UK, women are invited for cervical screening between the ages of 25 and 64

  • Women aged 25-49 are invited every three years

  • Women aged 50-64 are invited every five years

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