You may or may not have known that last week was Cervical  Cancer Screening Awareness Week.

This is a vitally important date in the calendar  because of how it highlights the  importance of  cervical  screening (smear tests) and how having just  one test can help to prevent cervical cancer,  the  second most common female cancer in the under 35s.

It’s been five years since Jade Goody died from cervical cancer at just 27. And while at  the time her death prompted thousands of women to get screened  for the disease, that  trend unfortunately now  appears to be on the decline.

Research conducted by Jo’s  Cervical Cancer Trust to mark Cervical Screening Awareness  Week, revealed that the number of women across all age groups attending  screenings has plummeted – yet the  number of those  diagnosed with the disease has reached its highest level in 15  years.

Jo’s Trust found that 39% of  women are embarrassed by the  concept of having a smear test, and one in 10 were uncomfortable having the test done at their GP’s surgery.

One in five forgot all about it altogether, and one in 10 thought cervical screening was a test for ovarian cancer.

This is so worrying. Just going for one screening can save a staggering 5,000 lives a yearby catching potential disease as early as possible.

Of course it isn’t the most pleasant of experiences but isn’t five minutes of discomfort  worth it ten times over if it can save your life?

Why are women so put off by cervical screening?

It is not a test for cancer; it’s a test to check the health of the cells of the cervix, and most women’s test results show everything is normal.

Jade Goody died of cervical cancer aged 27
 

For around 1 in 20 women, the test will show some abnormal changes in the cells of the  cervix.

In England, women between the ages of 25 and 64 are invited for cervical screening.  Women aged  between 25 and 49  are invited for testing every  three  years, and women aged  between 50 and 64 are invited   every five years.

Being screened regularly means that any abnormal  changes in the cells of the cervix can be  identified at an early stage and, if necessary, treated  to stop cancer developing.

It is estimated that early detection and treatment can prevent up to 75% of cervical cancers.

A few weeks ago, The Chronicle reported the story of 33-year-old mum-of-three Lynn Jones, 33, who had been regularly smear tested since she  was 21.

When she was 30, Lynn got a letter through the post reminding her that her next screening was due. Busy with work and looking after her two children, she forgot about it and before  she knew it she was 18  months  late with her test.

Lynn made the appointment,  had the smear done and while  waiting for her results, discovered she was pregnant.

Doctors found abnormal cells in Lynn’s sample and she was called back for a biopsy and repeat smear.

She said: “The results came back that I had CIN3, a high form of pre-cancerous cells.

“As I was pregnant I had to wait before I could do anything and three months after I gave birth I had a colposcopy to remove them, not a nice experience at  all.

“I urge anyone who is due a  smear to go, yes it’s not very nice but it might save your life.

“I keep thinking if I would have just gone for the  smear the first time this wouldn’t  have happened.”

So, if you take just one thing away from reading  this article, let it be Lynn’s advice.

If you’re due a smear test  you’ve been putting off, book an appointment as soon as possible, because if you don’t, it may end up being your biggest regret.