THE importance of smear tests for women over the age of 25 is well publicised.

HPV is the virus which causes 99 per cent of cervical cancer cases.

This is why screening is so important - for potential early diagnosis.

But the regularity of women taking smear tests has hit a 21-year low.

Women are encouraged to contact their GP for the test, but well documented issues with delays in booking appointments may be putting some patients off.

In the case of Dovercourt mum Karen Hyland, she alleges the surgery told her to call back in two weeks.

It is difficult to disagree with her sentiment that this is “shocking”, given the national campaigns highlighting the importance of the test.

The figures are stark.

Only 83,800 of 378,400 eligible women had a screening between 2017 and 2018.

Only 45 per cent of women with cervical cancer are diagnosed at an early stage.

If it is caught early, the five-year survival rate is 92 per cent.

If the cancer spreads, this rate plummets.

The test is crucial and more must be done to ensure women can be screened as quickly and conveniently as possible.