New campaign launched in bid to boost smear test uptake

The Scottish Government campaign is encouraging people not to ignore their invite as it could 'save a life'.

New campaign launched in bid to boost smear test uptake iStock

A new campaign has been launched urging people who are eligible for a smear test to attend when invited.

The Scottish Government campaign encourages people not to ignore their invite – even if they think everything is fine – and highlights that two people die from cervical cancer in the UK every day.

The campaign also provides tips and reassurance around the appointment to help overcome barriers to attending, such as embarrassment or worry.

Public health minister Maree Todd said: “A five-minute smear test could save your life. Even if you expect everything is fine, it’s important not to ignore your invite, as the test can help stop cervical cancer before it starts.

“The test screens for human papillomavirus (HPV), the main cause of cervical cancer, and helps ensure cell changes are identified and treated earlier.

“This campaign has been developed to encourage more eligible people to attend and ultimately save more lives.

“It’s understandable some may feel anxious about the smear test itself, but information and advice are available to help make your appointment easier.”

The number of tests carried out for cervical cancer dropped by 45% last year, after the checks were paused during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Public Health Scotland data showed that 174,299 smear tests were completed in 2020/21 – down from 318,727 the previous year.

The Covid-19 pandemic resulted in a temporary pause in the cervical screening programme from March to June 2020.

Laura McAdam, 36, from Ayrshire, said a smear test saved her life.

In 2014, her regular smear test showed cell changes, which led to check-up appointments every six months.

These continued to show changes and following a colposcopy – a procedure used to look at the cervix – a tissue sample was taken and a week later, in November 2016, she was diagnosed with cervical cancer aged 31.

In January 2017, she underwent a hysterectomy and now attends scans every six months to monitor her recovery.

She said: “I was diagnosed early thanks to attending a regular smear test and I’m so grateful that my cell changes were picked up early enough – it saved my life.

“I had no symptoms whatsoever before that, so I know first-hand how important it is to attend screenings, even if nothing seems wrong.”

The Scottish Government earlier announced the medical records of almost 200,000 women who were permanently removed from the cervical screening list would be checked in the wake of the death of a woman who was “wrongly excluded” and went on to develop cancer.

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