The Western Trust has seen the biggest drop in attendance of women for cervical screening in comparison to other Trust areas, according to figures.
The figures, obtained from the Public Health Agency in a Freedom of Information request by the SDLP, show that in the last year 18,543 women in the Western Trust area attended for cervical screening appointments.
This is down from 19,962 in 2015/2016 and 18,701 in 2016/2017.
The figures represent a 6.1 percent decrease in the number of women attending, in comparison to 4.1 percent in the Belfast Trust area in the same period.
The decrease in the three other Trust areas range from 2.8 percent to 5.1 per cent.
SDLP Health spokesperson, Mark H Durkan, has urged women to attend regular cervical screening appointments.
“The fall in the number of women attending cervical screening check-ups here is worrying. This year marked the lowest turnout since 2015.”
He commented: “I would urge women to attend what could potentially be a life-saving examination.
“Cervical cancer is the most common cancer in Northern Ireland- preventative measures such as the HPV vaccine and early detection like smear tests improve the likelihood of successful treatment.
“Both of these options have experienced a decrease over the last few years, despite campaigning efforts by the Public Health Agency.”
The MLA called for more education for women to ensure they are aware of the benefits of screening.
“More must be done to educate teenage girls and women about their health, as to allay people’s trepidations associated with these programmes.”
He concluded: “The importance of regular cervical screenings cannot be over emphasized. Don’t ignore your invitation, it could save your life.”