THOUSANDS of young Scots women could be putting their lives at risk by failing to be checked for cervical cancer.
Figures from one of Scotland’s largest health care providers show that half of woman aged between 20 and 24 snubbed an invitation to attend a smear test appointment in 2011.
NHS Lothian data released today shows the problem is worse in poorer parts of the city, with 58% of young woman in Wester Hailes, Niddrie and Muirhouse turning down the potentially life saving check, as opposed to around 80% uptake in the more affluent areas of Morningside and Barnton.
By comparison, the majority of woman in their mid-40’s accepted an invitation to the three-yearly check.
Cervical cancer is highly treatable if caught early and is one of the most common cancers in woman.
It was thought the high profile death of a reality TV star Jade Goody from cervical cancer in 2009 would encourage a rise in young woman accepting an invitation to be tested for the disease.
NHS Lothian, medical director, Dr David Farguharson, said: “Women aged less than 35 years have lower uptake rates for a range of reasons, including confusion about the overall health message in relation to cervical screening.”
GP surgeries in the Lothians are now keeping a note of and personally contact women who fail to show up to smear tests in order to address some of the reasons why.
Dr Farquharson added: “There is also a review of the national screening programme by the Scottish Government concerning the age range for screening and the frequency of screening over the age of 50.”
The Scottish Cervical Screening programme as been in place in Scotland since 1989 and woman between 20 and 60 are invited to a smear test every three years.
In August 2010 a new set of leaflets were introduced to the national screening programme in Scotland which look to explain what’s involved, address reasons why women may not be coming forward and answer commonly asked questions.
A senior health board source said: “Other than continue pushing the message, there isn’t much more can be done. It’s an intimidating thing to consider, especially for younger woman having it for the first time, compared to older woman who have been through childbirth, having less reservations as a result.”