While it might seem unusual that the Prime Minister reveal all about her medical history in the middle of PMQs, there was a very good reason she was sharing her personal experiences.
The PM opened up about smear testing in a bid to encourage more women to attend their own cervical screening, at a time when uptake for appointments is at a 21-year-low.
“I, as a Prime Minister, can stand here and say this – I know what it’s like to go through a cervical smear test,” she told the Commons on Wednesday 23 January.
“It is not comfortable. Sometimes, for some, it will be embarrassing, sometimes it’s painful, but those few minutes can save lives, so I would encourage all women to take up their smear tests.”
The PM’s call to action came after Conservative MP Rachel Maclean urged May to encourage women to attend appointments.
Maclean opened up about her own experiencing explaining that 10 years ago, her own smear test flagged abnormalities, which could have developed into cervical cancer if left untreated.
Replying to Maclean’s request the PM replied: “I think her experience shows exactly why it’s so important for women to take up this test and we do need to encourage more women to undertake their cervical screening test.”
She added that Public Health England was about to launch a national campaign to highlight the risks and encourage more women to get checked.
Earlier this week, research by Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust revealed that women are putting off smear tests due to feelings of embarrassment.
The charity surveyed more than 2,000 women aged 25 to 35 about their experiences and found that of 915 women who delayed a test or had never gone for screening, 81% cited feeling embarrassed, while a worrying two thirds (67%) say they would not feel in control at the prospect of a test.
For 71 per cent it was feeling scared that put them off, while 75 per cent felt vulnerable.
Around 220,000 British women are diagnosed with cervical abnormalities every year and there were 854 deaths from cervical cancer in England in 2016.
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