Column: Vital tests where we’re ahead of the field

Doncaster Royal Infirmary receives nearly four million calls a year
Doncaster Royal Infirmary receives nearly four million calls a year

We’re at the start of Cervical Screening Awareness Week and, as a GP, I’m today urging all Doncaster women to please attend your appointment when you are called for a smear test.

I’m pleased to report that, when it comes to attending for a smear, Doncaster women are better than the country as a whole, but there’s always room for improvement, and remember - tests potentially save lives.

They enable us to spot potential problems early enough to tackle them.

Smear tests – or cervical screening – are regular checks to make sure there are no changes to the cells of your cervix, which could later turn into a cancer.

The test provides the best protection against cervical cancer. It involves using a speculum and a small brush to take a sample of cells from your cervix, which is then sent away to the laboratory to be analysed.

You can request a female health professional, usually a nurse, to carry out the test and it normally takes around five minutes. Some women find the procedure a bit uncomfortable, or embarrassing, but for most it’s not.

The NHS cervical screening programme was introduced to reduce the number of women who develop cervical cancer and the number who sadly die from it.

It’s one of the great successes of the NHS. Since cervical screening was introduced in the 1980s, the number of women diagnosed with cervical cancer has reduced by about seven per cent every year.

If you are registered with a GP you will be invited for a smear test:

n Aged 25 to 49 – every three years

n Aged 50 to 64 – every five years

n Over 65 – only women who haven’t been screened since they were 50, or those who have recently had abnormal tests

Latest figures reveal that in 2016/17, some 72.8 per cent of Doncaster women aged between 25 and 49 had a smear test compared with 69.6 per cent across the rest of England.

It’s good that we are doing better than other areas, but the downside is that nearly 27 per cent of Doncaster women are missing out on having a test and could be at risk by doing so.

Similarly, over the same time period, 78.4 per cent of Doncaster women aged between 50 and 64 had a test, compared with 77.2 per cent across the rest of the county.

Again, it’s good news that we are ahead of the field, but over 20 per cent of eligible Doncaster women in this age group are missing out.

Visit www.jostrust.org.uk for more details