PHE urge women to attend ‘life-saving’ cervical screening

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Public Health England (PHE) is calling for women to attend cervical screening after latest figures reveal a fall in numbers attending.

A report by NHS Digital shows that cervical screening coverage for women aged 25–29 has fallen by 0.7% over the last year.

Screening is estimated to prevent 70% of deaths caused by cervical cancer and could prevent 83% of cases if all eligible women attended.

The NHS Cervical Screening Programme is designed to identify cervical abnormalities that have the potential of becoming cancerous if left undetected and untreated. Under the scheme, women aged 25–49 are eligible for a smear test every 3 years. Women aged 50–64 are invited to attend screening every 5 years, as the risk for developing cervical cancer is typically lower among this age group.

In order to improve screening attendance in England, PHE plans to take several actions including:

  • supporting local services to increase cervical screening uptake through provision of clearer information
  • encouraging GPs to consider offering more flexible appointment hours for women to attend smear tests
  • developing an interactive database which informs practices about the number of eligible women they have screened.
Professor Anne Mackie, Director of Programmes for the UK National Screening Committee at PHE, said: ‘It is of real concern that fewer women, particularly younger women are not being screened, with over a third of women under 30 not taking the test.

‘If women are embarrassed about having the test or worried about what the test results might say, they should talk to their GP who can explain why the test is important.’