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Leading charity calls for more government investment as the continued fall in cervical screening uptake puts more lives at risk

Thu, 24/10/2013 - 12:36
Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust today calls for significant investment in targeted campaigns to encourage more women to attend regular cervical screening tests as the most recent figures [1] for cervical screening coverage show a fall of 2% from 2012 for eligible women aged 49 and under. Overall results show that more than 1 in 5 women are still not having this preventative health test with 21.7% ignoring their invitation – up from 21.3% in 2012.
The charity is particularly concerned about the first and last ages for screening. The lowest numbers for uptake appear in the 25-29 age group where only 62% get screened. Cervical cancer is the most common cancer for women under 35 and those being diagnosed within this age range is at the second highest since 1996 [2].
For women aged 60-64 who receive their final invitation 27.3% currently fail to attend screening – the lowest uptake for over 16 years. This is particularly worrying as cervical cancer incidence for this age group has increased by 29% - the highest incidence levels for a decade.  
Robert Music, Chief Executive of Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, the UK’s only charity dedicated to supporting women affected by cervical cancer and cervical abnormalities, said: “We are extremely worried about these statistics and now need to see urgent action taken to reverse this downward trend in screening uptake. Cervical cancer is a preventable disease thanks in part to the cervical screening programme but we must do all we can to make sure women not only recognise the importance of this preventable measure and attend screening but that all those eligible are able to access the programme.
“Research* from the charity has shown there are several barriers to screening from realising the test’s relevance and general lack of awareness to fear or embarrassment of the procedure. A separate study has also found that women find it difficult to get time off work to attend screening or book an appointment at a convenient time.
“It is now paramount that we get engagement at policy level. If we don’t see an increased focus and investment and screening continues to decline then we are extremely worried that, for certain age groups, the devastating impact of a cervical cancer diagnosis will hit more women than ever before.”
For further information, comment or case studies please contact Maddy Durrant on 020 7250 8311 / 07772 290 064 or email [email protected]
  1. HSCIC Cervical Screening Programmes, England, 2012-13 Report, published 24 October 2013 - http://www.hscic.gov.uk/article/2021/Website-Search?productid=12601&q=tr...
  2. Data supplied by Cancer Research UK. 
- Ends - 
Notes to editors 
  1. Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust (www.jostrust.org.uk) is the UK’s only dedicated charity offering support and information to women of all ages affected by cervical cancer and cervical abnormalities. The National Helpline is on 0808 802 8000
  2. Around 3 women in the UK die each day from cervical cancer, with someone diagnosed every 3 hours
  3. Over 300,000 women a year are told they may have a cervical abnormality that could require treatment.
  4. It is estimated that the UK Cervical Screening Programmes save 5,000 lives every year.
* Further information on the charity’s research
Of 50-70 year old women surveyed:
  • 31% didn’t consider screening necessary for all women with that figure more than doubling (67%) amongst those who had never attended screening. 
  • Single women aged 50 to 70 were most likely to say the screening invitation seemed irrelevant (5%). 
  • Only 33% said the information they received was informative and less than half (49%) thought their screening invite made it clear why the test is important
  • 37% said they would be more likely to book a screening appointment if they were given age-relevant information
(1) From YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2397 women aged 50 – 70. Fieldwork undertaken between 16 and 21 December 2011 The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK females aged 50 to 70
**Of those aged 25-34 surveyed:
  • 43% said they had missed or delayed a screening 
  • 43% found the procedure embarrassing
  • 26% said they found the procedure painful
  • 22% missed an appointment and failed to reschedule one
  • 27% said it was hard to book a cervical screening appointment at a convenient time
*From YouGov Plc. Total sample size 2718 women of which 2467 were of screening age. Women aged 20+ in Scotland and Wales and 25+ in England and Northern Ireland. Fieldwork undertaken between 7th and 10th January 2011. The survey was carried out online.