Health: Why it's important to face your fear and have your smear, ladies
Cervical cancer is the most common form of cancer in women under 35, with around nine women a day diagnosed with the disease in the UK.
The best form of protection against the illness is to attend a smear test, however, I was shocked to discover that, according to NHS statistics, only three in four women eligible in the region are taking up the offer.
All women who are aged between the ages of 25 and 64 are eligible for a free cervical screening test every three to five years, depending on their age.
I turn 25 this summer so I will be invited for my first smear test in the coming months.
I have no doubt in my mind that I will be going to have my cervical screening test at my earliest possible opportunity.
This is because it is estimated that early detection and treatment through cervical screening can prevent up to 75 per cent of cervical cancers from developing.
While it’s important to remember that cervical screening is not a test for cancer, the test is used to detect changes to the cells of the cervix or neck of the womb.
If these abnormal cells are left untreated, there is a risk that some of them could develop into cervical cancer in the future.
The idea of a smear test is a daunting one. Like most things, there is the fear of the unknown.
Not knowing what to expect in most situations would be nerve-racking, particularly when they are related to your personal health, but this is a particularly intimate test.
I, like all other women, have heard the stories of how intrusive and painful the examination is, and that does make nervous.
However, for every woman who has told me how painful they have found the procedure, there is another one who has told me that it is only a mild discomfort.
It is a personal experience for every woman so I will need to go for myself to see what is like. Whether it hurts or not though I will be sure to make sure I continue to go for the first test and then have regular screenings.
The reason for that is simple; smear tests can ultimately save lives.
In The Telegraph newsroom at least three women have either found they had precancerous cells themselves after having a smear test, or have friends who found they had them.
That does not mean that those cells would have definitely developed cancer in future, but there is some chance that they could have done - and without the smear test they would not have even known.
Even if the smear test is painful, that feeling would only be for a short amount of time, whereas the effects of cancer would have a devastating impact long term - not just on me, but also on my friends and family. I will take any test to de-crease the chances of that happening.
Ladies are being urged to visit the ‘Fear or Smear’ website which addresses concerns women have about attending their smear test. Visit www.fearorsmear.dbh.nhs.uk.