Good on Steph McGovern for having smear test live on TV, says Catherine Scott

Cervical screening take-up is at a 20-year low, with only one in four eligible women coming forward.

Steph McGovern Picture: Tom Martin/Channel 4

Some of that is down to the pandemic but there was already a decline in uptake before Covid-19 took over our lives.

For some, it is the embarrassment of what’s known as the smear test – which doesn’t really help its image to be honest – for others, it is fear of pain and the unknown.

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What journalist and TV presenter Steph McGovern wanted to do, when she had a smear test live on TV, was to dispel some of these myths.

Let’s be honest, no woman looks forward to their smear test but there really is nothing to it for the majority of women.

I’m not sure I am brave enough to have the nation watching me have mine, but then McGovern is about pushing boundaries. Her Chanel 4 show Steph’s Packed Lunch, broadcast live in Leeds, has obviously hit a chord with people, having been commissioned for a second season.

The on screen test came as Chris Hopkins launched ‘The Smear Campaign’ following the death of his partner from cervical cancer, which has left his nine-year-old son to grow up without his mother.

Mr Hopkins wants to help prevent more children from losing their mothers to cervical cancer.

Data from Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust shows that around five million women are invited for cervical screenings every year with about three and a half million attending.

One in four women do not attend with it being as low as one in two young women (age 25 to 30) not attending in some areas of the country. In August 2008 the British reality TV star Jade Goody made public her diagnosis of cervical cancer. In February 2009 it was announced that she was terminally ill and she died a few weeks later aged 27. The publicity surrounding her death resulted in a surge in cervical screening attendances especially among the 25–49 age group.

But a number of factors have led recently to the decline and Chris Hopkins and Steph McGovern are determined to encourage more women to go for the screening test.

Middlesborough-born McGovern showed that there was nothing to fear by the test, which took less than a minute to perform, and could help identify damaged cells before they turn cancerous and ultimately save a woman’s live

As she had her smear test, the former BBC Breakfast business presenter commented: “There are a lot women who struggle with going to their smear test because they think it’s going to be awful and embarrassing, so we decided to show you what actually happens.”