WOMEN in Oxfordshire are being urged to get screened for cervical cancer with concerns over the low number of those being tested.

Last year more than 50,000 women in Oxfordshire did not attend their last smear test, NHS figures show, while nationally screening rates have reached a 20-year low.

Cervical screening can stop cancer before it starts by preventing potentially harmful cells developing, national statistics show nearly 30 per cent of eligible women (those aged 25 – 64) not attending their test last year.

Read again: Huge number of women in Oxfordshire missing their smear test is 'a real concern'

Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) is now backing Public Health England's Cervical Screening Saves Lives campaign this month to encourage women to respond to their cervical screening invitation.

In Oxfordshire 70.7 per cent of eligible women were screened in 2017/18, slightly down on the year before (71.4 per cent).

Clinical lead for planned care and cancer at Oxfordshire CCG, Dr Shelley Hayles, said: “It is really important for women to understand why they should attend cervical screening.

"Don’t ignore your cervical screening invite.

"If you missed your last cervical screening, book an appointment with your GP practice now."

Read again: Cervical screening sample backlog ‘reached more than 150,000’

Dr Hayles also stressed the importance of women with learning disabilities or autism being screened, as take-up in those groups tends to be lower.

She added: “The test is relatively simple, takes a few minutes and is performed by nurses at your GP surgery who are trained and experienced in how to make your test comfortable.

“Most women’s test results show that everything is normal but for around one in 20 women the test shows show abnormal changes in the cells of the cervix.

“Most of these changes won’t lead to cervical cancer and cells go back to normal on their own but, in some cases, the abnormal cells need to be removed so they can’t become cancerous.”

Last year a review of the screening service by the National Audit Office revealed how more than 150,000 untested cervical screening samples were discovered in laboratories across England.

The report found that at one point last year only one in three women undergoing a smear test had received their result within the recommended 14 days.

For more information about cervical screening visit the website www.nhs.uk/cervicalscreening