Cervical cancer screening test age to rise in Scotland

Cervical cancer cells Image copyright SPL
Image caption Cervical screening saves about 5,000 lives in the UK every year

The age at which women in Scotland are asked to attend their first screening test for the signs of cervical cancer is to increase from Monday.

Currently, women are requested to attend for a smear test every three years when they reach 20, but this will change to 25.

The tests currently stop at age 60 but will now continue to 64.

The Scottish government said the changes followed recommendations from the UK National Screening Committee.

The committee has said testing under-25s is not effective at preventing cervical cancer, but the over-60s remain at risk of developing the condition.

Women over 50 years old will be invited for screening every five years.

Chief medical officer Catherine Calderwood said the changes brought Scotland into line with the rest of the UK.

Saving lives

She said: "The previous age range was 20 to 60 years, however we now know that cervical screening in young women is more likely to pick up normal cell changes which may result in unnecessary treatment while not changing the number of cases of cancer.

"Meanwhile, older women remain at risk of cervical cancer beyond the age of 60 when screening previously stopped."

Ms Calderwood added that cervical screening saved about 5,000 lives in the UK every year. The UK government raised the screening age from 20 to 25 in 2004.

Robert Music, chief executive of Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust, said: "Screening saves lives, yet the number of women attending this test in Scotland is falling year on year and in 2014/15 only 70.4% of eligible women took up their invitation.

"This downward trend is extremely concerning as cervical cancer is one of the only cancers that can be prevented.

"We urge all women aged 25-64 to join the cervical screening programme when invited. It is a five minute test that could quite simply save a life."

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