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Welsh women at greater risk of cervical cancer as numbers attending cervical screening continues to decline

Wed, 04/11/2015 - 15:41

Figures [1] released from Public Health Wales show a further fall in the numbers of Welsh women taking up their cervical screening invitation with 78% in 2014/15 attending, down from 78.6% in 2013/14. This means over a fifth of the eligible population could be putting themselves at risk of developing cervical cancer.

Screening uptake becomes more concerning among the first and last age group to be invited for screening; only 73.4 % of 60-64 year olds (screened within 5 years) and 71.8% of 25-49 years olds (screened within 3.5 years) are attending their cervical screening.

The age and interval at which women are invited to attend their cervical screening changed in 2013 in Wales to fall in line with England, screening women aged 25-49 every three years and 50-64 year olds every five years, compared to the previous 20-64 year olds every three years.

Cardiff and Vale UHB and Hywel Dda UHB have the two lowest screening uptakes in Wales with 76.6% and 76.5% respectively.

Since 2001/2002 screening uptake (screened within 5 years) has fallen across all eligible age groups in Wales, for example over 4% in women aged 60-64 and 4.5% in 30-34 year olds. The biggest drop in this timeframe can be seen amongst 50-54year olds from 85.1% to 78.7% attending screening.

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 [2] shows that if screening were to increase from its current level to 85% Wales could see a 22% 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 13% in one year.

"It is time we see a shift in awareness of the importance of cervical screening; targeted campaigns need to be put in place 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 of women diagnosed with cervical cancer increase."

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]

1. Cervical Screening Wales Annual Statistical Report 2014-15, Public Health Wales, (30 October 2015)

2. 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

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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.