Rise in women attending smear tests

Campaigners welcome increase in cervical screening but raise concerns over decline in young women attending

Tuesday 3rd September 2019

More women in Scotland are going for cervical screening tests – but attendance is still in decline among young women.

The uptake rate across Scotland was 73.1% for 2018/19 compared to 72.8% the previous year, according to new statistics published by ISD Scotland.

Attendance increased in almost every health board, apart from Grampian, Lothian and the Western Isles.

However health campaigners have raised concerns over a lower number of young women attending screening – particularly those who have not been vaccinated against the HPV virus.

The only age group in which uptake fell was among 25-29 year olds, with the number going for cervical screening falling slightly from 62% to 61.8% last year.

Robert Music, chief executive of charity Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, said the increase in cervical screening uptake across most areas was positive.

He said: “This shows that reversing the trend of falling attendance is not impossible and it’s vital this continues.”

But he added: “Despite results overall being positive we cannot allow ourselves to become complacent.

“The youngest age group of 25-29, those who are being invited for their very first cervical screening, has sadly shown a further fall, with less than two-thirds attending.

“Of even more concern is that those young women who have not had the HPV vaccine have a much lower uptake of cervical screening, with only 30.7% of 25-year-olds who have not had the vaccine attending screening.

“This leaves this group at a greater risk of developing cervical cancer and we would like to see a targeted campaign to focus efforts on those who are most at risk.”

Women from the most deprived areas were also far less likely to take part in the screening programme at around two-thirds - 67% - compared with over three-quarters - 78% - from the least deprived areas.

Overall, Shetland had the highest rate of women going for screening at 80.1%, while the lowest was recorded in Greater Glasgow & Clyde at 69.7%.