A new cervical cancer screening campaign has been launched by Public Health England (PHE).
The initiative comes after the number of women attending screenings has fallen to a 20-year low, and provides practical information about how to make the test more comfortable, giving reassurance to women who may be fearful of finding out they have cancer, that screening is not a test for cancer.
Regular screening, which only takes a few minutes, can help stop cervical cancer before it starts, as the test identifies potentially harmful cells before they become cancerous, and ensures women get the right treatment as soon as possible.
During the campaign, the term "smear test" has been avoided, amid concern it may be putting people off. Officials said the term was outdated and hope the term cervical screening will "normalise" the procedure, encouraging more women to go.
“It is a tragedy that women are needlessly dying of cancer when a simple test can identify any risks early on," said public health minister Steve Brine. "We hope this new campaign - the first of its kind in this country - will save lives and I am delighted to see it launch today."
He went on to note: “Improving cancer detection and diagnosis is a core part of our Long Term Plan for the NHS, and from April, any patients with suspected cancer will begin to receive a diagnosis or the all clear within 28 days, and £200 million is being invested to fund new ways to rapidly detect and treat cancer.”
Around 2,600 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer in England each year, and around 690 women die from the disease, which is 2 deaths every day. It is estimated that if everyone attended screening regularly, 83% of cervical cancer cases could be prevented.