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Half of women don’t know what the cervix is

Fri, 09/06/2017 - 14:47
  • Cervical Screening Awareness Week taking place from 12-18 June

Almost half of women (44.2%)[1] are unaware of what the cervix is, unable to correctly identify it as the neck of the womb (uterus). One in six could also not name a single function of the cervix with less than half (41.40%) aware that it connects the womb to the vagina and only one in three knowing that it provides a seal to hold the baby in when pregnant.

Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust is releasing these new statistics at the start of Cervical Screening Awareness Week (12-18 June) to encourage women to talk about and protect their cervical health.

The cervix has several important functions, including keeping the foetus inside the womb until birth, allowing menstrual blood to flow out from the vagina and dilating during birth to allow the baby to move from the womb to the vagina. Through increasing awareness of the important role of the cervix, the charity hopes to increase awareness of cervical cancer and most importantly how it can be prevented through cervical screening.

Cervical cancer currently claims two lives every day in the UK. It is the most common cancer in women under 35. Cervical screening prevents up to 75% of cervical cancers yet the number of women attending is at a 19 year low in England (72.7%)[2] and at a 10 year low in both Wales (77.8%)[3] and Scotland (75.6%)[4]. However, these figures mask huge differences across ages and areas, including:

  • In London only 55.2% of 25-29 year olds have attended screening, dropping to 46.5% in several boroughs
  • Coverage in South Gloucestershire is the highest in the country with 81.9%, the lowest is Kensington and Chelsea at just 55.5%
  • In Manchester, Liverpool, Blackpool, Hammersmith and Fulham, Camden and Westminster only around 64% of 60-64 year olds have attended in the last five years
  • NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde has the lowest screening uptakes in Scotland with only 71.1% attending
  • Hywel Dda University Health Board and Cardiff and Vale University Health Board have the lowest uptake in Wales with only 76.3% and 76.5% attending respectively

Robert Music, Chief Executive of Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, said: “We cannot afford to see cervical screening attendance fall any further. Diagnoses of cervical cancer in the UK are worryingly high and will only increase if more women don’t attend screening. We want to encourage women to look after their health, including the health of their cervix and that means attending cervical screening. By not attending, women are significantly increasing their risk of a life-threatening disease. During Cervical Screening Awareness Week I want to encourage women to talk to their friends, mothers and daughters about the steps they can take to reduce their risk of cervical cancer.”

Marianne Wood, Colposcopy Nurse, said: “Cervical screening looks for abnormal cells on the cervix which could develop into cancer if not treated or monitored but it’s really important to remember that the majority of cervical screening tests come back with no abnormal cells. If you are nervous or unsure about attending then please do talk to the nurse performing your test who will be able to explain what will happen and answer any questions you have. Cervical screening may be uncomfortable but it should not be painful and remember, the nurses will really try to make you feel at ease if you feel embarrassed in any way. I want to encourage every woman to attend their appointment when invited and not delay. It’s such an important five minute test that really could save your life.”

Find out more about Cervical Screening Awareness Week at jostrust.org.uk/csaw


1 Survey of 1,040 women aged 16 and older conducted by Censuswide on behalf of Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust between 17th May 2017 and 19th May 2017. Surveys were conducted from a random sample of a representative panel across the UK.  

2 http://www.content.digital.nhs.uk/catalogue/PUB22414

3 http://www.cervicalscreeningwales.wales.nhs.uk/statistical-reports

4 http://www.isdscotland.org/Health-Topics/Cancer/Cervical-Screening/; uptake by 5.5 years


For more information please contact [email protected] or call 020 7250 8311 (out of office hours 07772 290064)


Notes to editors

About Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust

Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust is the UK’s only dedicated charity offering support and information to women of all ages and their loved ones affected by cervical cancer and cervical abnormalities. The national Helpline is on 0808 802 8000.



About cervical cancer

  • The majority (99.7%) of cervical cancers are caused by persistent human papillomavirus (HPV) infection which causes changes to the cervical cells
  • Over 3,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer and 200,000 with cervical abnormalities each year in the UK
  • Every day 9 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer and 2 women lose their lives
  • Women aged 25-49 are invited for cervical screening every 3 years and from 50-64 every 5 years


About HPV (Human Papillomavirus)

  • Anyone who has ever been sexually active is at risk of contracting HPV
  • Around 13 high-risk types of HPV are responsible for causing cervical cancers, types 16 and 18 are the most prevalent, causing over 70 per cent of cervical cancers
  • Four out of five (80 per cent) women are infected with genital HPV at some point in their lives without ever knowing they have been infected because HPV is usually cleared (without treatment) by the body's immune system, with 80 per cent of cells healing within two years
  • A small percentage of women do not clear the infection and it can remain 'dormant' (inactive) or persistent, sometimes for many years. If your immune system doesn't clear the infection and/or the abnormal cells are not removed or monitored, the DNA of the HPV virus can join with the DNA of the epithelial cells, creating cancer cells. This is why cervical screening and HPV vaccination are important in helping to spot abnormalities and prevent cancer
  • Research has shown that changes in abnormalities do not usually escalate quickly and it can take between 5 to 20 years for a cancer to develop.

[1] Survey of 1,040 women aged 16 and older conducted by Censuswide on behalf of Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust between 17th May 2017 and 19th May 2017. Surveys were conducted from a random sample of a representative panel across the UK.