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'Just go for your smear. It's free and could save your life'.

Byline: Abbie Wightwick Reporter abbie.wightwick@walesonline.co.uk

IT IS seven years this week since reality TV star Jade Goody died from cervical cancer.

Her public battle prompted a surge in women being screened for the disease but now numbers of women having cervical smears in Wales are falling.

One in five women in Wales are putting themselves at risk of cancer by failing to attend cervical smear screening, a charity has warned.

In 2002, 80% of women in Wales attended their smear test compared with 78% in 2014-15, with figures going up and down in between. In 2011-2012 it reached a low of 54.8% of 20 to 24-year-olds going for tests.

Robert Music, chief executive of Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust, said: "Jade Goody's very public and open battle with cervical cancer resulted in a huge increase in the number women attending their smear tests.

"We are very concerned that her legacy is being forgotten and the number of women attending this potentially life saving test is going down. Across Wales one in five women are not taking up their invitation and this number is declining.

"The cervical screening programme saves around 5,000 lives every year in the UK and we urge all eligible women to take up their invitation as soon as they receive it to reduce their risk of cervical cancer."

The figure of nonattendance for screening is highest among younger women in Wales, with one in four 25 to 29-year-olds not going for routine smear tests.

Public Health Wales figures show overall incidence of the disease has remained static in the past decade with 164 cases in 2012 to 2014, one more than in 2002-04.

Incidences of cervical cancer have declined among 25 to 49-year-olds in Wales but the number of women aged 50 and over diagnosed with cervical cancer has risen in recent years, with 81 diagnosed in 2013, 78 in 2012, 65 in 2011 and 50 in 2010.

Public Health Wales figures show at March 31, 2015, 78% of women in the target age group of 25 to 64 years old have been screened for cervical cancer, 207,600 of the 279,400 invited.

Rachel Jones, head of Cervical Screening Wales, said: "Although women in Wales are more likely to join in with the cervical screening programme than in some other parts of the UK, we are seeing small falls in participation each year, which is a worrying trend.

"Cervical Screening Wales is a high quality service, and research has shown that cervical cancer would be four times as common in Wales without the screening programme. Although the vast majority of women in Wales do join in with the programme I would urge all women not to ignore their screening invitation, as it could save their life."

Women posting on Facebook page Cervical Cancer Awareness - Keep Jade Goody's Legacy Alive Community said the star's story saved their lives.

Trainee hairdresser Jessica Bradford, 20, from Rhymney, Caerphilly, who was diagnosed with cervical cancer at the age of 18 and campaigns to lower the age of smear tests, said: "Don't put it off. Have your smear test. It takes seconds and doesn't hurt."

Mother-of-two Sarah Vining, 42, from Cardiff said her routine smear test saved her life.

"I had no symptoms, no bleeding, no pain but my smear test showed abnormal cells," she added. The marketing consultant, who has sons aged eight and 10, went on to have a life-saving hysterectomy and now runs Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust Cardiff Support Group.

"I would say to women, just go for your smear. It's free and could save your life."

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Reality TV star Jade Goody died of cervical cancer in 2009
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Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Mar 24, 2016
Words:617
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