This week (19–25 January) marks Cervical Cancer Prevention Week, a European-wide initiative led by the European Cervical Cancer Association (ECCA) to promote awareness of the disease and promote the uptake of prevention programmes.
The ECCA estimates that cervical cancer causes 30,000 deaths per year throughout Europe, while statistics from Cancer Research UK suggest around 3,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year resulting in over 900 deaths in the UK.
Cervical cancer is now the most common cancer in women under the age of 35 but the majority of cases could be prevented through vaccination against the human papilloma virus (HPV), along with healthy lifestyle measures which impact on the overall burden of the disease, including smoking and obesity.
The HPV vaccine has been offered to girls aged 12–13 years through the NHS national vaccination programme since September 2008, and has been found to be extremely effective in protecting against the two types of HPV responsible for more than 70% of cervical cancers in the UK.
Dr David Richmond, President of the RCOG, said:
“Preventative medicine needs to be the main focus for cervical cancer, rather than intervention which sometimes comes too late. Globally cervical cancer accounts for 275,000 deaths per year, 90% of which occur in developing countries. Raising the profile of this disease can only help in our long term ambitions to reduce the incidence of an eminently preventable disease.
“In the UK, the national HPV vaccination programme for young girls is an excellent step towards this and the RCOG strongly encourages parents and girls who are of age get the vaccine.
“Regular cervical screening is also a vital part of disease prevention when it comes to early diagnosis. Not being screened regularly is one of the biggest risk factors for developing cervical cancer which is why national guidelines suggest all women over the age of 25 should be regularly screened to detect any irregular or pre-cancerous cells.
“The NHS Cancer Screening programme has led to a significant reduction in the rate of cervical cancer but continued promotion is essential for us to see a continued reduction in the overall rates of this disease.”
For more information on cervical cancer visit NHS Choices and for more information on Cervical Cancer Prevention Week or how to get involved visit Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust