NHS cervical screening figures show drop following Jade Goody peak

In collaboration with Adfero

There has been a fall in the number of women attending cervical screening, following a noticeable rise in 2008-09.

The number tested under the NHS Cervical Screening Programme rose to 3.6 million in 2008-09 - a trend that is thought to be due to the late Jade Goody's well-publicised battle with cervical cancer.

However, latest figures from the NHS Information Centre show that the number of 25 to 64-year-olds who were screened dropped back to 3.3 million in 2009-10.

Among 25 to 49-year-old women, the number tested fell from three million in 2008-09 to just 2.6 million in 2009-10.

The overall percentage of 25 to 64-year-old women who have been screened at least once in the last five years is just under 80 per cent.

Coverage of 25 to 49-year-olds (who are invited every three years) increased from 72.5 per cent to 74 per cent, while coverage of 50 to 64-year-olds (who are invited every five years) fell slightly from 80 per cent to 78.9 per cent.

NHS Information Centre chief executive Tim Straughan said: "Screening is vital to catch changes to the cervix which may develop into cervical cancer. This report is important in helping NHS professionals and the public understand what percentage of eligible women is being screened.

"The 2008-09 peak in numbers attending screening, which may be due in part to publicity surrounding the late Jade Goody's battle with cervical cancer, appears not to have been sustained this year."

The report also shows that a greater proportion of women are receiving their test results within two weeks of screening.

In 2008-09, just 21.4 per cent of women's test results were sent out within two weeks; for 2009-10, this figure rose to 44.6 per cent.

Dr Claire Knight, Cancer Research UK's health information officer, said:

"Our main concern is these figures show that consistently one in five women are still not going for screening.

"Cervical cancer is one of the few cancers that can be prevented through screening, by picking up early changes in the cells that can lead to the disease. Even though we now have the HPV vaccine it's still important women go for cervical screening when they're invited."