Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust – the only UK charity dedicated to cervical cancer – said that the more barriers women faced preventing them from attending a screening, including being charged for the test, was ‘the biggest risk’ to them developing the disease.
And with an estimated one in four eligible women in Jersey not undergoing cervical screening Neil MacLachlan, a consultant in obstetrics and gynaecology at the Hospital, has called on women to ensure they undergo the ‘lifesaving’ test.
He added that as the Island was still compiling a database of all the eligible women – those aged between 25 and 64 – who should be screened, it was not known what percentage were not being tested.
‘It is terrible when we see women coming forward with advanced cancer of the cervix,’ Mr MacLachlan said. ‘It is a preventable disease.’
Island women can pay as much as £57.50 for screenings, whereas in the UK it is free on the NHS. The Health Department also offers smear tests at the Le Bas Centre for £16.
According to latest figures there were 20 new cases of cervical cancer in Jersey between 2010 and 2014. Meanwhile, between one and two women each year die from the illness.
A survey of 2,017 UK women by Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust found that 35 per cent were too embarrassed to attend their smear test.
Robert Music, chief executive of the charity, said that smear tests prevented 75 per cent of cervical cancers.
‘Not attending is the biggest risk to developing the disease, so it is important that the reasons behind women not attending are understood and steps taken to overcome them,’ he added. ‘This includes embarrassment, fear, lack of awareness or finding it difficult to access screening. The more barriers women face, the more likely they are to delay or not attend.’
In June, Maryann Lumsden, professor of medical education and gynaecology at the University of Glasgow, told the JEP that it was ‘illogical’ and a ‘false economy’ that women in Jersey should be charged for smear tests.
At the time Health Minister Andrew Green said that the issue was being looked at as part of two pieces of work being conducted by his department.
When asked by the JEP if a decision to scrap the charge had been made, a Health spokesman said: ‘The piece of work looking at charging for cervical screening is still being looked at – no final decision has yet been made.’
Dr Linda Diggle, head of preventive programmes at Health, said: ‘Based on the latest available data, the uptake rate for cervical screening in Jersey is similar to the UK rate – around 74 per cent. Our aim is to raise this number through improvements to IT systems which will make sure that all women in the relevant age range are reminded of the need to make an appointment.’