“I got my cervical screening letter in November and I’ve been putting it off because I don’t want to do it – I don’t think any girl really wants it done to them.”
Elena Coley Perez is 26 and attributable to have her first cervical screening – or smear check – that examines the opening to your womb out of your vagina.
Screening invitations are despatched to ladies aged between 25 and 64, however some don’t take up the provide.
NHS data present 4.6 million ladies – or 30% of those that are eligible – have by no means been screened for cervical most cancers or aren’t updated with their assessments.
Women are generally too embarrassed to return ahead or put it off as a result of they’re anxious, surveys have discovered.
Struggling to ebook their assessments attributable to GP backlogs is not going to assist the scenario, say charities.
Elena has advised the BBC she was already fearful about having a smear check, and the issue she skilled in reserving one put her off much more.
“I got another letter in December so I went to book online because with my local GP you have to go through this long-winded form,” she mentioned.
“I typed in cervical screening and nothing was coming up, so I ended up waiting 35 minutes on the phone to be told they had no appointments for the rest of the year and to phone back in the new year.”
Elena then tried once more in January and was advised there was no availability.
“At this point I was like, ‘what’s the point?’ – you’re trying to do something that can hopefully prevent you from getting cancer and you get to the doctor’s surgery and you just get a ‘no’ – it’s really off-putting,” she says.
“This is my first smear and it’s daunting enough as it is, because the letter doesn’t really explain [what I’m going to have done]”.
Administered by a nurse or GP, the check entails taking a small pattern of cells from the cervix to verify for sure varieties of human papillomavirus (HPV) infections.
High-risk varieties of HPV could cause irregular tissue progress which might result in most cancers.
Elena ultimately managed to ebook a cancellation appointment after her third try at making an attempt.
Nicky Bennett, a 42-year-old medical coach, has additionally had the identical expertise as Elena when making an attempt to ebook a routine smear check.
“I had my reminder letter in October 2022 and tried to book in the surgery when I went in for a vaccine,” she mentioned.
“At the reception desk they said I would have to ring up and couldn’t tell me when the next available appointment was. That’s really hard because I travel round the country so I’m not available to just do that.”
Nicky was nonetheless making an attempt to ebook her appointment when she spoke to us and mentioned she spent the morning on maintain to her docs for greater than an hour and 1 / 4.
“You give up and that’s part of the problem – you know you need it done but then when you’re at work and you can’t get through and you just delay it,” she mentioned.
“And with something like a smear test – no-one wants to rush to have that done.”
The BBC put the difficulties these ladies had confronted to the Department of Health and Social Care, which mentioned it was “taking action” to enhance the scenario for many who wanted smear assessments.
“We are expanding the number of settings for screenings, opening up 24/7 laboratory screening so people get results faster, as well as making appointments available during evening,” a spokesperson mentioned.
An NHS spokesperson advised the BBC it had carried out “3.5 million cervical screening appointments in 2021/22, an increase of 9.4% since before the pandemic, and a record number of people have been invited for screening in the last year”.
The charity Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust says half of all cervical cancers happen in ladies who’ve by no means been screened or aren’t up-to-date with screening.
Its chief govt, Samantha Dixon, has advised the BBC: “If vital appointments like cervical screening become harder to access there is the very real potential that women could give up or be put off attending.
“Screening can already be tough to attend, for instance attributable to previous trauma or fears, and we ought to be making it simpler to entry not including new challenges.
“Through screening and the HPV vaccination we can eliminate cervical cancer, but that day will get further away if screening uptake falls.”