More women missing out on cervical screening, says charity

Cervical cancer cells Image copyright SPL
Image caption Every year in the UK, more than 3,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer

The number of Scottish women who attend screenings for cervical cancer is falling, according to a national charity.

Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust said out of nearly 1.5 million women eligible for a smear test last year, only 76.6% had been screened.

The charity found attendance had dropped among all age groups.

It said incidences of cervical cancer could be cut by 21% in just one year, if uptake could reach 85%.

According to the charity, the five-year cervical screening uptake has been falling since 2001-2002 when it was at 86.5%.

The exception was 2009 when celebrity Jade Goody's death from the disease resulted in increased attendance.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption In the year of Jade Goody's illness, more women attended cervical screenings

Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust said its cervical screening awareness campaign #SmearForSmear, which targeted women aged between 25 and 29 last year, improved attendance from that age group.

It is relaunching the campaign at the start of Cervical Cancer Prevention Week to encourage more women to attend screenings.

It also aims to highlight a trend of declining attendance as age increases.

Last year in Scotland, screening coverage for 50-54 year olds was 82.1%, down from 89.3% nine years ago. Meanwhile, coverage for 55 to 59-year-olds fell from 86.8% to to 78.7%.

Cervical cancer facts and figures:

  • Every year in the UK, more than 3,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer
  • Three women lose their lives as a result of the disease every day
  • Cervical cancer is the most common cancer in women aged 35 and under
  • Cervical cancer, in 99.7% of cases, is caused by persistent infection with a virus called human papillomavirus (HPV)
  • Cervical cancer is rare while HPV infection is common.

Source: Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust

Jo's chief executive Robert Music said: "Cervical cancer is a preventable disease and we cannot afford for screening uptake to keep falling.

"So it is a matter of urgency that we see positive actions to turn around the downward trend in cervical screening uptake and we are urging policy makers and health professionals to increase investment in targeted approaches to tackle barriers to screening for women of every age, ethnicity, location and circumstance."

Public Health Minister Maureen Watt said: "The earlier a cancer is detected the easier it is to treat.

"We know that screening is the best way to detect cervical cancer at its earliest stage.

"Through our £39m Detect Cancer Early programme we aim to increase the proportion of cancers detected at the early stage of disease and raise awareness of all cancers and screening programmes amongst the public and health professionals, and crucially, save more lives each year."

He added: "While 70% of eligible women took up their invitation to be screened for cervical cancer in the last three years, it is essential that every woman in Scotland eligible for screening takes up their invitation to attend."

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