Women in England and Northern Ireland receive their first invitation for cervical screening at the age of 25. In Scotland and Wales, however, they are currently first invited at the age of 20.
Over the past year, the UK NSC has re-examined the evidence for screening women under the age of 25, and consulted widely on the issue of when women should begin to receive invitations for cervical screening. They now recommend that 25 should be established as the starting age in all countries.
Dr Tony Falconer, President of the RCOG said:
“Regular cervical screening is vital amongst women aged over 25. Cervical cancer is easily preventable. Abnormal smear results may indicate that a woman may have pre-cancerous cells in her cervix. However, early detection enables doctors to conduct further investigation to ensure that the pre- cancer does not develop into a cancer.
“Screening women under 25 has not been shown to be effective. Cervical cancer in women under 25 is extremely rare and many abnormalities in women in this age group will clear up of their own accord. Screening these women means that a high number of them will experience anxiety and undergo further investigations and possible treatments for no benefit, causing more harm than good.
“Preventative medicine needs to be the main focus rather than intervention which can sometimes be too late. The introduction of the national HPV vaccination programme for young girls is an excellent step towards this. The RCOG strongly encourages parents and girls who are of age to take up the offer of the vaccine in order to reduce morbidity and mortality.
“The NHS Cancer Screening programme has led to a significant reduction in the rate of cervical cancer. The RCOG encourages all women to attend cervical screening when invited, and to ensure that arrangements for regular periodic appointments are made.”
For further information, please contact the RCOG Media and PR team on +44 20 7772 6300 or email email@example.com.
RCOG Scientific Impact Paper on Progress in Cervical Screening can be found here.