Women who were sexually abused in childhood are less likely to attend cervical cancer screenings than other women, research suggests.

The National Health Service Cervical Screening Programme said that 78.6% of eligible women had been screened at least once in the previous five years.

But researchers found that only 77.5% of abused women had ever had a smear test and of those, only 48.5% had been screened in the last five years.

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Researchers examined 135 women who used the website National association for People Abused in Childhood (NAPAC).

The research, published in the Journal of Family Planning and Reproductive Health Care, also identified several barriers which make women avoid smear tests, including fear and anxiety and a lack of sensitivity by the healthcare worker administering the smear.

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In an accompanying editorial, NAPAC training and development manager, Sarah Kelly said: "Common feelings among survivors of sexual abuse include shame, guilt, self-blame and feeling unclean, contaminated or dirty. These feelings can be compounded during the experience of a smear test."