The Royal College of Obstetricians (RCOG) welcomes the new guidance published by the Department of Health for cervical cancer screening in young women. The Clinical practice guidelines for the assessment of young women aged 20-24 with abnormal vaginal bleeding1 aims to help GPs identify symptoms and diagnose young women with cervical cancer early.
The guidance was developed by a working group of the Advisory Committee on Cervical Screening (ACCS), which was set up to look at the management of young women with gynaecological symptoms. The working group found that in a significant proportion of cervical cancer cases in women under 25, women who visited their GP with abnormal bleeding experienced a delay in diagnosis because they did not receive a full pelvic examination.
The new guidance re-emphasises the NICE Referral guidelines for suspected cancer, which state that when women present with gynaecological symptoms, “the primary healthcare professional should undertake a full pelvic examination, including speculum examination of the cervix.”2
The RCOG welcomes this guidance as a useful tool to help GPs and practice nurses identify symptoms in young women and refer them when necessary to specialist services.
Early diagnosis and identification of symptoms are key to the prevention and treatment of cervical cancer. The RCOG encourages women to speak to their GP if they have any concerns about symptoms such as abnormal bleeding (for example, bleeding after sex or in-between periods).
HPV vaccination is an important way to reduce the risk of cervical cancer. The RCOG strongly encourages parents and girls who are of age to take up the offer of the HPV vaccine.3 For women who are of age, regular cervical cytology screening remains another important preventive measure. The RCOG encourages all women to attend cervical screening when invited, and to ensure that arrangements for regular periodic appointments are made.
4 March 2010
1The Department of Health Clinical practice guidelines for the assessment of young women aged 20-24 with abnormal vaginal bleeding are available here.
2The NICE Referral Guideline for Suspected Cancer is available here.
3The HPV vaccination programme for girls between 12-13 years of age started in September 2008 with a catch-up programme for girls up to 18 years of age commencing later in autumn 2009.
For more information about the NHS Cervical Cancer Screening Programme, please click here.
For more information about the HPV vaccination programme, please visit the NHS Choices website here.