Doctors warn of cervical screening decline

In collaboration with the Press Association

Stark falls in the number of women coming forward for cervical screening could lead to an increased rate of cervical cancer say doctors.

Only 69.4 per cent of women aged between 25 and 29 who were invited for screening attended in 2005/06 compared with a figure of almost 80 per cent of women in 2005.

The NHS Cancer Screening programme said that a similar trend had been observed among women aged between 30 and 34.

In some ways the screening programme has become a victim of its own success with the public now having a low level of awareness about cervical cancer.

Since a national screening programme was launched in 1988, the number of deaths attributed to the disease has fallen from 6,000 to 1,000 every year.

Director of NHS cancer screening programmes Julia Patnick said that initial research suggested that some women didn't attend screening because they were concerned that it may be embarrassing or painful.

"Of course we are keen to understand why women today may be more embarrassed than perhaps ten or 20 years ago," she told the Guardian.

"Another key issue could in fact be the effectiveness of the screening programme - a reduction in rates of cervical cancer means it is now a far less common disease so people don't tend to worry about it so much."