A new YouGov poll for Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust on women’s attitudes to cervical screening shows a worrying trend. The key findings are:
• 39% reported having missed or delayed their appointments because of work
• 29% reported difficulty in arranging time to attend their smear tests
• 35% reported that if GP opening times were more flexible, they would have attended their appointments.
Routine cervical screening is available on the NHS in England for women between 25-64 years of age. Tests are conducted every three years for those between 25-49 years old and thereafter, once every five years for women above 50 years of age. Abnormal smear results may indicate that a woman may have pre-cancerous cells in her cervix. Early detection enables doctors to conduct further investigation to ensure that the cancer does not become worse and spread.
Around 2,800 new cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed each year in the UK. Currently, around 80% of women are screened by the NHS Cervical Screening Programme. However, it is the 20% of women who slip through the system that need added support.
It is especially important for women who are sexually active to have the smear tests since cervical cancer is spread by the human papilloma virus (HPV), a sexually transmitted infection. To ensure extra protection for women, the national HPV vaccination programme began in 2008 and is available for schoolgirls aged 12 and 13 years.
Dr Tony Falconer, President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) said “These survey findings reveal the range of reasons why some women do not go for their smear tests. We all lead busy lives these days and it is important to ensure that women have access to the NHS services they need at a time and location that is convenient to them.
“Screening helps to identify health problems and the earlier these are picked up, the better it is for the woman. We need to concentrate more on the preventive aspect of medicine in women’s health services rather than disease interventions which may come too little, too late. This must form the lynchpin in the Coalition Government’s present public health strategy and should be fundamental to the NHS’s quality agenda.”
7 June 2011
To view the story on the BBC, please click here.
The RCOG library is holding an exhibition on Cervical Screening Awareness Week over the month of June. To view the press release, please click here.