An estimated 110,000 women have never attended for a smear test despite the fact that it only takes about five minutes and is free of charge, the Marie Keating Foundation has said.
It has launched a new campaign, ‘Don't Fear the Smear', with the aim of encouraging all those in the relevant age group - 25 to 60 - to undergo the test.
Around 300 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer in Ireland every year. In its early stages, this type of cancer usually displays no symptoms, however, a smear test can detect changes in the cells of the cervix, including pre-cancerous cells. These cells can then be removed so that the cancer never gets a chance to develop.
Research by the Marie Keating Foundation for this campaign revealed that the average Irish woman spends 3,285 minutes per year doing her make-up and 3,513 minutes per year doing her hair, yet thousands have never attended for this five-minute test, which usually only needs to happen every three to five years.
The foundation pointed out that the test is free of charge through the screening programme, CervicalCheck, and 4,500 nurses and doctors are signed up to this programme nationwide.
"A smear tests is the most effective way to detect changes in the cells of the cervix. Smear tests find pre-cancerous cells that can be easily removed so cancer never develops. It is vital for women to get regularly smears even if they feel perfectly healthy as pre-cancerous cells do not have any symptoms.
"All women aged 25 to 60 should go for regular smear tests every three to five years, regardless of whether they are single or married, gay or straight or going through the menopause," explained the foundation's director of nursing services, Helen Forristal.
Meanwhile, women can also reduce their risk of developing cervical cancer by not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight and practising safe sex.