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Scottish women at greater risk of cervical cancer as cervical screening uptake continues to decline

Tue, 01/09/2015 - 12:58

Figures[1] released today show a continuing decrease in the numbers of Scottish women taking up their cervical screening invitation with 76.6% in 2014/15 attending, down from 77.3% in 2013/14*. This means almost a quarter of the eligible population could be putting themselves at risk of developing cervical cancer.

The figures come at the start of Gynaecological Cancer Awareness Month which aims to raise awareness of cancers such as cervical cancer which affects eight UK women every day. In Scotland incidence[2] of cervical cancer has risen across almost all eligible age groups.  

Currently, in Scotland women are invited to attend cervical screening from ages 20-60 every three years. This will change in April 2016 when the country falls in line with the rest of the UK, screening women aged 25-49 every three years and 50-64 year olds every five years.

A decline in screening uptake is reported across almost all eligible age groups with only the 25-29 year cohort reporting a 0.1% increase in attendance. Despite this, the age group has one of the lowest attendance rates with 34.3% failing to be screened in 2014/15. Equally worrying is the older age groups where over 1 in 5 women aged 55-59 fail to be screened every five years.

Greater Glasgow continues to have the lowest screening uptake with an average of only 71.5% across all age groups attending screening every five years. Lothian has the second lowest uptake at 73.9%.

In 10 years screening uptake has fallen in Scotland by over 7% overall, over 8% in women aged 55-59 (screened every 5.5 years) and almost 10% in women under 30 years (screened every 3.5 years).

Robert Music, Chief Executive of Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust said: "The cervical screening programme saves around 5,000 lives in the UK every year yet we continue to see more and more women not taking up their cervical screening invitation promptly. We know that various barriers to screening exist such as fear and embarrassment, a lack of knowledge about the test, cultural and language barriers as well as being unable to take time off work. This needs to be urgently addressed.

"Research[3] shows that if screening were to increase from its current level to 85% the country could see a 21% reduction in numbers of women diagnosed with cervical cancer in just one year. However, if it continues to fall to levels around 70% incidence could rise by 27%.

"With Scotland changing the frequency and eligibility of which it invites women for screening next year, we urgently need to see targeted campaigns launched to communicate the test's importance and relevance to each age group as well as address any confusion. There is a very real risk that if nothing is done we may see numbers diagnosed with cervical cancer increase even further."

For further information including research, comment or case studies please contact the press team on 020 7250 8311 / 07772 290 064 or email [email protected]

*figures according to women screened within 5 years

[2] ISD Scotland, Scottish Cervical Screening Programme Statistics 2014-15, cervical cancer incidence and mortality, age specific incidence

[3] Behind the Screen, authored by Jo Salter, published by Demos on Monday 9 June 2014. Numbers based on the model for increasing screening rates in England and the subsequent reduction in mortality


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.