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Women urged to get a smear test
A CERVICAL cancer survivor has urged women not to ignore their smear test appointments.
Each year 25 women in Oxfordshire are diagnosed with cancer of the cervix, but screening rates in the county are below the national average.
The cancer is usually picked up through a routine smear test.
Across the country, an average of 80 per cent of women routinely keep their cervical screening appointments.
But in Oxfordshire, only 77 per cent of the 169,500 women eligible for screening have been checked in the past five years.
The issue has been highlighted as part of Cervical Cancer Screening Awareness Week which runs until Friday.
Julie Walker, 34, who said her life was saved by the early detection of cancer, is urging women not to skip their check-ups.
Mrs Walker, from Tamar Way, Didcot, had just celebrated her 10th wedding anniversary in the summer of 2008 with husband George, 38, and their son Cameron’s first birthday when her smear test showed abnormalities. She said: “The test basically saved my life.
“The adverts which say the ‘earlier you pick it up the better’ were really true in my case.”
Her diagnosis came just a week before reality TV star Jade Goody found out she had terminal cervical cancer.
Mrs Walker added: “It was very hard.
“But I would say to all women, don’t put it to the back of your mind, just go and get it done.”
In most cases, cervical cancer is slow-growing, taking between 10 and 15 years for abnormal cells to become cancerous.
It can be detected by examining cells taken from the cervix in a smear test.
There are nearly 3,000 new cases in the UK each year, and about 1,000 deaths – six per cent of women are under 35.
Cervical screening saves 4,500 women’s lives each year.
Paula Jackson, consultant in public health for NHS Oxfordshire, said: “Cervical cancer can be prevented by early detection.
“If you have never attended a cervical screening appointment or did not respond to your last invitation, contact your GP practice to make an appointment today.
“It only takes 10 to 15 minutes and most women will receive a normal result.
“For women who require further investigation or treatment an appointment can be arranged without delay.
“Most cases of cervical cancer could be prevented if women go for regular cervical screening.
“This allows the health of the cervix to be checked and changes identified before they have a chance to develop into cancer.”
Women who have missed a test can call their GP practice to book an appointment.
Women aged 25 to 49 are invited to attend for cervical screening every three years. Those aged 50 to 64 are invited every five years.