MILLIONS of women are at risk of a silent killer due to a drop in testing, data shows.
Figures published by NHS Digital show that in 2021-2022 a total of 5.12 million people will be invited for cervical cancer screening.
However, only 3.5 million women actually showed up for screening appointments, meaning many are at risk of getting sick.
Cervical cancer causes about 853 deaths in the UK each year, with more than 3,000 cases recorded, Cancer Research UK says.
It is called a silent killer because it often shows no symptoms in the early stages.
While the number of tests performed is up 15 percent from last year, coverage was lowest among the 25 to 49 age group, falling from 69 percent in 2021 to 67.6 percent.
A charity has warned that more awareness is needed to save lives.
Samantha Dixon, CEO of Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust said cervical screening offers an opportunity to prevent cervical cancer from developing.
“While it is positive that more women were tested last year, the number of women who have been tested has fallen.
“In addition to the need to raise awareness, we need to innovate and look at new solutions such as self-sampling to make this potentially life-saving test more easily accessible.
“The impact of the pandemic and the ongoing pressure from the NHS has had a significant impact and we often hear from women struggling to get screening appointments and experiencing delays in results or follow-up tests.
“There are many reasons why screening can be difficult, and we need to focus on removing these barriers.”
Earlier this year, figures also showed that nearly a third of eligible individuals aged 25 to 64 were not screened.
The new report, published today by NHS Digital, also found that the 50 to 64 age group had the highest coverage at 74.6 per cent, slightly down from 74.7 per cent in 2021.
The 4 signs of cervical cancer you need to know
The NHS says there are certain symptoms to look out for when it comes to cervical cancer.
- Bleeding that is unusual for you – including between sex or between your periods
- Changes in vaginal discharge
- Pain during sex
- Pain in your lower back, between your hip bones, or in your abdomen.
However, the guidelines state that if you have another condition, such as fibroids or endometriosis, you may experience such symptoms on a regular basis.
You should always see your GP if you have any concerns or concerns.
Regional coverage varied across the country, but NHS experts said the statistics may have been affected by the Covid pandemic.
During this time, women were still encouraged to see their GP for their Pap smears.
But fear surrounding the bug kept many people from going for the life-saving checks.
The screening does not test for cancer, but is a test that helps prevent cancer, the NHS states.
It checks the health of your cervix and all women aged 25 to 64 should be invited by letter.
During the appointment, a small sample of cells will be taken from your cervix.
This is then checked for certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV) that can cause changes in the cells of your cervix.
If dangerous types are detected, you will be directed for further testing.
If you are concerned about any of your symptoms, you should see your GP.
Always call 999 in the event of an emergency.