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.