Full uptake of cervical cancer screening could save hundreds of lives

New research has found that screening for cervical cancer is so effective that it prevents an estimated 1,827 deaths a year in England. However, if all women aged between 25 and 64 who are invited for screening attended, an extra 347 deaths a year could be avoided.

Researchers from the Queen Mary University of London studied the records of more than 11,000 women in England who had been diagnosed with the disease. The study is the first of its kind to establish the impact that screening has had on deaths from cervical cancer.

“Thousands of women in the UK are alive and healthy today thanks to cervical screening,” said Professor Peter Sasieni, the lead researcher. “The cervical screening programme already prevents thousands of cancers each year and as it continues to improve, by testing all samples for the human papilloma virus, even more women are likely to avoid this disease,” he added.

Screening for cervical cancer was introduced across the UK in 1988. In England women aged between 25 and 49 are invited for screening every three years and those aged between 50 and 64 every five years. Between 70% and 73% of all eligible women attend for screening. However, there is concern as the numbers have been falling, which may leave some women at risk as cancer survival rates are considerably higher with early diagnosis.

Dr Claire Knight, Health Information Manager at Cancer Research UK, said women should take up the offer to attend cervical screening when invited.

"It's important to remember that cervical screening is for women without symptoms” she added.

The study is published in the British Journal of Cancer.

Abnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. Full medical glossary
Relating either to the cervix (the neck of the womb) or to the cervical vertebrae in the neck (cervical spine). Full medical glossary
The process of determining which condition a patient may have. Full medical glossary
The basic unit of genetic material carried on chromosomes. Full medical glossary
An organ with the ability to make and secrete certain fluids. Full medical glossary
A sexually transmitted virus that can cause genital warts and may also have a role in the development of various cancers. Full medical glossary
A non-cancerous growth that resembles a wart. Full medical glossary
A way to identify people who may have a certain condition, among a group of people who may or may not seem to Full medical glossary
A microbe that is only able to multiply within living cells. Full medical glossary