A NORTH Cumbrian mum who has untreatable cancer has urged other women to have a smear test after shocking new figures showed that more than 26,000 ignored their chance to have the procedure.

Mum-of-two Tina Gilliland, 55, who recently won an out-of-court damages settlement over the handling of her case by two GPs, spoke out after a national survey by Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust revealed just how many eligible women last year failed to take up the offer of a test.

There are fears take-up rates might dip further as a result of coronavirus.

Women aged 25 to 49 are invited for screening every three years, while those aged 50 to 64 receive invitations every five years.

NHS data shows that 79% of the 124,856 women in Cumbria eligible for a smear test by the end of 2019 had been screened – the point at which the latest data is available. Although that was up from 77% over the same period in 2018, it meant 26,529 women in the area were missing out on the potentially life-saving programme shortly before the Covid-19 crisis struck.

Tina, a former mental health nurse, from Prospect, near Aspatria, said: “There are far too many people not going for the smear test when they should. Women have busy lives looking after their families, holding down jobs and a lot will now be working from home because of coronavirus.

“I suppose the main thing at the minute is that they are frightened they may catch coronavirus by going to their doctor. They possibly don’t realise that doctors have put a lot in place to keep people safe so you are not going to catch coronavirus off them.

“A smear test is the best protection we can have.

“If they catch the cancer at the beginning it can be sorted; the longer you leave it the harsher the treatments become. You need to have the test for yourself; and you need for your family because you want to see them grow up.”