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Quarter of women in North Yorkshire missing out on life-saving cancer checks

Almost a quarter of women in North Yorkshire are missing out on vital checks that help prevent cervical cancer, according to Yorkshire Cancer Research.

Quarter of women in North Yorkshire missing out on life-saving cancer checks

Almost a quarter of women in North Yorkshire are missing out on vital checks that help prevent cervical cancer, according to analysis by Yorkshire Cancer Research.

Recent data shows that more than 25,000 women across North Yorkshire who have been invited for cervical screening have either never attended an appointment or are not up to date with their checks.

Cervical screening helps identify women at most risk of developing cervical cancer and provide them with further tests and treatment if needed.

Despite this, the number of women missing out on the free NHS service has been increasing in recent years.

Dr Kathryn Scott, Chief Executive at Yorkshire Cancer Research, said:

“We know that screening saves lives. It is vitally important that women come forward for their cervical screening when invited.

“Cervical cancer is almost completely preventable. Screening helps detect changes in cells, meaning that pre-cancerous cells can be treated before they have the chance to develop into cancer.

"The more people who attend their screening appointment, the more cancers that can be prevented and more lives will be saved in our region.”

Research has found several reasons why women don’t respond to their cervical screening invitations, including embarrassment, anxiety around the process and fear that it will hurt, or practical reasons such as being able to book an appointment outside of working hours.

The most significant decrease in screening participation has been among women aged 25 to 49, who make up 15,000 of North Yorkshire’s missing screenings.

Cervical screening involves taking a small sample of cells from the cervix to look for signs of the human papillomavirus (HPV), which causes almost all cases of cervical cancer. Most people will not have HPV, but if it is found, then further tests are carried out on the same sample to check for pre-cancerous cells.

Finding pre-cancerous cells early means that the cells can be treated before they are able to develop into cancer.

Women aged 25 to 49 are invited to attend their screening every three years, and those aged between 50 and 64 are invited every five years.  Trans men and non-binary people with a cervix can also access cervical screening.

Dr Scott continued:

“Yorkshire Cancer Research funds research projects and services to help increase the number of women attending their cervical screening in Yorkshire.

“We know that some people find the thought of attending screening to be unnerving for a number of reasons, so these programmes are designed to help raise awareness of what screening involves and why it is important to attend.”

In South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw, a programme funded by the charity is encouraging more people to take part in screening.

The three-year programme is provided in partnership with GP practices in Barnsley, Bassetlaw, Doncaster, Rotherham, and Sheffield and involves activities to raise awareness of the importance of screening and encourage more people to take up their invitations.

The programme offers women between the ages of 25 and 29 who attend their screening a tote bag as a ‘reward’ for attending their appointment.

The tote bag contains a postcard that can be shared with friends and family, encouraging them to attend their own appointments.

Yorkshire Cancer Research is also funding research to find ways to improve screening.

In Hull, researchers are sending at-home test kits to thousands of women as part of an investigation to find out if being able to carry out a simple urine test in the privacy of their own homes can help more women take part.

Dr Scott added:

“The NHS recently set the ambitious target of eliminating cervical cancer by 2040, but for this to be achieved, it’s vital we increase participation in screening by making it as easy as possible for people to benefit.

"It’s important that we continue to work closely with local communities to understand how we can encourage more women to attend appointments and find innovative ways to improve the screening process.”

For more information about HPV and cervical screening, visit www.ycr.org.uk/insights/hpv-explained

Read more local stories from Your Harrogate here.

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