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Every day at Jo's I see the devastation cervical cancer causes. This is a disease which takes mothers from their children, wives from their partners and leaves thousands of women with life-long physical and psychological side effects of their treatment. As a charity we are here for every woman who needs us, for as long as they need us. However, our vision is the day where no woman has to face a diagnosis and no more women lose their life to the disease.
December was an extremely exciting and important time for the charity as we launched a new ambitious five year strategy setting out our role in working towards our vision of eradicating cervical cancer. At the heart of the strategy are five commitments which we will be working towards over the next few years. Achieving these will see the impact of the disease significantly reduced and will get us closer to eradication.
By 2022, we would like to see:
To better understand where we should focus our resources and energies over the coming years we commissioned research with Queen Mary University of London, who are world leaders in research into screening programmes. This research allowed us to investigate incidence and mortality of cervical cancer over the coming years in England under a variety of scenarios, including rising or falling cervical screening and HPV vaccination uptake.
We found that with the anticipated introduction of the more accurate primary HPV screening and the more effective 9-valent HPV vaccine (protecting against 90% of high-risk HPVs), by 2040 we will see incidence of cervical cancer amongst younger eligible women plummet. There could be just over 100 diagnoses a year in women aged 25-29, far lower than the 412 diagnoses seen last year amongst this age group. These predictions are extraordinary and they show we are on the path to eradicating a cancer which is hugely exciting.
It is clear that the goal we are working towards can be achieved. Yet, despite these promising predictions for younger women, there will be an alarming shift in incidence to older women by 2040, predominantly women currently in their 40s and 50s. Our research has show that among this group of women (who have not received the HPV vaccination) we may see mortality increase 109%, and if screening attendance continues to decrease, then deaths may rise to an extremely concerning 128%. For Jo's, this is a ticking time bomb and there is an urgent need for action to reduce this risk.
Our research shows there is a clear disparity in the future impact of cervical cancer between vaccinated and non-vaccinated generations. For every age group cervical screening remains critical in protecting health and reducing risk. However, for older women this is even more pertinent. We want to see screening coverage increase to 80% by 2022, which is a big challenge based on current figures and the fact attendance has been falling year on year. While the future impact of the disease among younger women will be greatly reduced thanks to the HPV vaccination, we can’t become complacent as we have found that if uptake of the vaccine was to fall to 40%, diagnoses among those aged 25 to 44 would actually increase 38% to 945 cases a year.
Increasing awareness and attendance of cervical screening can only happen if we continue to build our understanding of the reasons different women don't take up their invitation and address them individually. Our work in this area is wide ranging. We will continue to work with and support national and local activity and efforts to increase attendance; promoting best practice, sharing the evidence and promoting partnership. To ensure every woman who is unsure or anxious about screening or their results gets the support they need, by 2022 we want every woman to be told about Jo’s when they receive their screening invite. For those who are diagnosed with cancer, we want to see increased numbers told about the support we can offer so they do not have to face diagnosis and treatment alone.
Looking into the New Year, there is lots to look forward to and focus on. We are committed to working harder and shouting louder than ever before and we are better placed than ever to do this with a growing team, a rising income, a greater reputation and more partners than ever before. We know where we want to be by 2040.
Yet we want to achieve our vision of eradication as fast as we can, to reduce the impact for as many women as possible and allow us to set new goals bringing the day that cervical cancer is a disease of the past ever closer. It is only through our amazing supporters that we have got this far and I want to thank you and hope that you will join us in working towards our vision. Let’s eradicate cervical cancer.
Wishing you all a happy and healthy 2018!