Three quarters of women snub smear test

A CERVICAL screening programme in Northamptonshire analysed 43,000 women in 2010-11.

In the Northamptonshire Primary Care Trust area, there were 174,500 women eligible for screening but only 25 per cent of those were actually tested.

The NHS programme is designed to catch abnormal cells in the cervix before they have the chance to develop into cancer.

Women are first invited for screening aged 25, and then every three years until they are 49. Then, they need to be screened every five years until they are 65.

The NHS encourages women to come for testing by writing to them, but it is a voluntary procedure.

A sample of cells is taken from the cervix for analysis.

Early detection and treatment can prevent 75 per cent of cancers developing but like other screening tests, it is not perfect. It may not always detect early cell changes that could lead to cancer.

Out of the tests taken last year in Northamptonshire, 93 per cent were negative.

About three per cent of the tests were borderline, and two per cent showed mild abnormalities. In 0.6 per cent of cases there were moderate abnormalities uncovered, and in 0.8 per cent of tests, doctors found severe abnormalities.