A TONG-based business has developed an innovative style of underwear aimed at helping to reduce cervical cancer rates in the UK.

Dignity Wear, run by former clinical hypnotherapist Sally Benson, has launched the women’s underwear which is specially designed to offer maximum privacy during cervical screening, or smear, tests. The aim of the garment is to encourage more women to attend these potentially life-saving tests.

The Tong Lane firm’s underwear features a discreet opening, allowing medical professionals to carry out a smear test with minimal patient exposure.

According to government statistics, more than one million women aged 25 to 64 did not attend their cervical screening test last year. Screening attendance has fallen over the last ten years and is now at a 19-year low.

Dignity Wear was set up in 2015 to empower patients and reducing feelings of vulnerability when attending intimate medical examinations.

Its products will limit unnecessary exposure and help women to retain their modesty whist attending their smear test.

Having carried out an independent survey of more than 200 women, Ms Benson identified that 66 per cent of women are more likely to attend a smear test if they have access to underwear which provide privacy during the examination. The firm is also releasing a men’s range of pants from next month.

Ms Benson, 53, who lives in Drighlington, said: “I am thrilled to be launching Dignity Wear products; it has been a long and exciting journey and it will be fantastic to see my vision come to life. If my products encourage even one woman to attend her examination to prevent this terrible disease, I will have succeeded.

“In recent years, cervical cancer has become the most common cancer among women under the age of 35.

“Most patients understand that going to a physician involves a physical examination that may require removal of some or all of their clothing and being undressed in front of a stranger.

“A rising number of patients are particularly uncomfortable with this and as a result are not attending their necessary medical screenings and check-ups.

“Following my own unpleasant experience at a smear test, I felt the real need to create something for patients that will protect their lack of dignity and increase levels of privacy.

“Each year, 3,200 women are diagnosed as having cervical cancer at any stage.”