THOUSANDS of Barrow women failed to attend cervical screening tests last year, new statistics show.

According to figures from Barrow GP practices, almost 4,000 eligible women in the town did not go for a smear test last year.

Thousands more women across South Cumbria were also found not to have attended their local family doctor for the vital checks.

At four separate Barrow surgeries, more than 500 women between the ages of 25 and 64 who were eligible for a smear test - which is provided for free through the NHS cervical screening programme - did not attend.

Rachel Minshull, development officer at Cancer Care Barrow, said the figures were ‘terrifying.’

Lucy Jagger, a Walney School teacher, lost her mum to cervical cancer.

She said smear tests had been put off by her 47-year-old late mother due to a sense of embarrassment. Miss Jagger has now urged women in Barrow and South Cumbria to visit their GP and get tested, no matter what.

“The tragedy is that the procedure is more straightforward and painless than it’s ever been,” she said.

“People sometimes don’t realise - you don’t always present with symptoms. That’s what happened with mum. And then by the time we knew what she had, it was already too late. It’s just not worth gambling your life by not going.”

Next week is Cervical Cancer Prevention Week. There are a number of social media campaigns planned to raise awareness, using the tag #SmearForSmear.

Compared to national statistics, Barrow GPs reported slightly higher rates of attendance - at 75.94 per cent - than the average rate for England, which was 72.6 per cent.

A spokesman for NHS Morecambe Bay Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) said: “Although our cervical screening achievement is higher than the national average, it is still very important to increase the number of women attending their cervical screenings in order to prevent the disease as much as we possibly can.

“This means two actions we will undertake this year. We will work closely with GP surgeries across the whole of Morecambe Bay to look at steps to improve uptake in each community. The other action that the CCG plans to take in the coming year is to support a campaign by the Lancashire and South Cumbria Cancer Alliance which aims to encourage the uptake in first time attendees for cervical screening through its #25itstime initiative.”