Women are risking their lives by not going for smear tests, a charity has found.
I wonder if this is because they haven't anyone to watch their kid/s or cannot take time off work during surgery hours.
The research, commissioned by Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust, shows a third of those aged between 25 and 29 don't take up their 'invitations'. And the older group (60-64) waits an average of three years to get checked. Yet the procedure can prevent around 75 percent of cervical cancer cases by detecting abnormal pre-cancer cells, according to the NHS.
1 in 20 results reveal cells that may need removing or re-testing, as they could return to normal. The aim of the NHS screening programme is to reduce cervical cancer and deaths.
Still, 3,000 women are diagnosed every year and three in the UK die each day from it. It mainly affects women from 30 - 45 years old.
All females between 25 and 64 are advised to go either three or five yearly - unless you are a nun. Those who have never been sexually active are extremely unlikely to develop the disease and aren't required to undergo screening, according to NHS guidelines.
After reality TV star and mother, Jade Goody, 27, died in 2009, there was a 12 percent rise in smear testing. That number has since dipped to what it was prior.
Maybe we should have cervical smear parties. A bit like Ann Summers but, er, slightly different! Canapés, your favourite tipple - bring a speculum?! Or at least designated weekend/evening clinics and crèche facilities. I bet that would help.
As a mum of two, it's sometimes impossible to have root canal or a haircut. I never understand how anyone attends hospital appointments where you can't take your child/ren, say, if it's of an intimate nature, involves long queues or sedation.
My friend, who is a single working parent, had a massive mission to find reliable childcare when she needed a major operation. My cousin, whose partner is in the army, has trouble finding babysitters and re-booked a smear several times. My sister put off the same test for two years because she was rushed off her feet training to be a teacher. However, though it feels like an individual problem, it's a social one.
If knackered busy women are delaying or avoiding medical intervention, health and welfare services will ultimately pick up the pieces (and bill!) - when catastrophe calls because cancer couldn't compete with the school run, the inflexible surgery wouldn't fit you in or life just got in the way.
As breast cancer survivor and mum-of-two Nicky, 43, put it: "Women are dying unnecessarily of something that is relatively straight forward to treat, with early detection. I'd rather sleep, cook or watch paint dry than converse with a nurse whose head I can't see! I have to go for a mammogram every two years. I wouldn't dream of missing one. Yet I avoided a smear by over two years."
Where we live in ridiculously advantaged St Albans, mums post on a Facebook network asking who can come to their home to do Shellac nails - does anyone know of a great live-in Polish slave, who simply must be able to drive a tank, fetch good wine and finish The Times crossword? One recently enquired about a personal synchronised swimming instructor for her seven-year-old daughter. (Would this count as a contributory hindrance to smear test attendance: surely the nurse would find the procedure much more difficult to do if Mum's head is stuck that far up her own posterior?)
But subject to being on a normal income or not having residential staff, even for 'traditional' families, where Dad works and Mum stays at home, it can be hard for her to escape for a much-needed hair cut or relaxing swim. Going to have what looks like a glorified pizza cutter inserted into one's vagina, which is then stretched out and scraped around is understandably not that appealing, when filtering through the hundreds of To Dos. Not really the 'me time' of choice! And don't even get me started on where the pre-appointment anti-embarrassment hair removal is supposed to be slotted in to the bulging schedule...
Less 'conventional' families such as those with partners in the military services, spouses who otherwise work away or very long hours, or where both parents work all week are going to struggle too.
So the NHS needs to think, um, outside the box and get creative. Free professional bikini waxing while your kids play games, receive party bags and balloons, then a glass of nerve-steadying Prosecco before you nip in to That Room? You will leave with a slight booze buzz, a neat 'lady garden', happy tots and can go for that swim hassle free. (If they have a crèche!)
Some things can wait. Highlights, manicures, The Times crossword... Cancer can't. By making time for a few uncomfortable awkward minutes, you could help save your own life. Terrifying thought that they might detect dodgy cells - but if you don't go, you won't know.