Cancer Research UK backs cervical screening call

In collaboration with the Press Association

Cancer Research UK has backed an NHS call for local awareness programmes to increase the number of Scottish women being screened for cervical cancer.

The number of cervical cancer deaths in Scotland has nearly halved since screening was introduced in 1987, from 188 annual deaths to 102 in 2004.

The figure is far greater than the original aim of a 20 per cent drop in mortality by 2000, while the number of cervical cancer cases has also fallen 43 per cent due to targeted intervention.

While the NHS is still exceeding its target screening rate of 80 per cent of the most at-risk women, the number has fallen in recent years.

NHS Quality Improvement Scotland (NHS QIS) noted the achievements that had been made but said that the service had to reach out to the community in order to sustain them.

"There is a concern that the success of the programme is beginning to change attitudes to cervical cancer," warned director of performance assessment at NHS QIS Jan Warner.

"The programme is hugely effective, but we must not allow the idea to take hold in the public mind that cervical cancer has in any way been beaten."

"All women invited for a cervical screening test should make sure they attend," added Dr Anne Szarewski, clinical consultant at Cancer Research UK.

"Cervical screening is very important because pre-cancerous cell changes can be picked up before they have a chance to develop into full blown cancer.

"If uptake is falling we must ensure that all women between the ages of 20 and 60 know the importance of going for screening.

"Young women often change address and find it difficult to register with a GP, but the system does not allow them to have a smear otherwise.

"This may be one of the reasons for the falling uptake in this age group."

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