One in five women still missing cervical screening appointments

In collaboration with the Press Association

Around one in five women eligible for cervical cancer screening in England have missed their most recent cervical screening appointment, according to a new report.

The Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) report looked at screening rates up until the end of March this year, and found that 78.6 per cent of eligible women aged 25 to 64 had been screened at least once in the previous five years.

The latest figures show that the number of women attending their cervical screening appointment has remained broadly the same over the past decade.

Jessica Harris, health information manager at Cancer Research UK, said: "It's encouraging to see rates of cervical screening remaining broadly similar over the last ten years. Screening is a highly effective way of preventing cervical cancers from developing in the first place and detecting cancers at an early stage, so we would like to see screening rates at least staying at this level, or rising further.

"It's estimated that the programme saves 5,000 lives every year in the UK, so taking up screening when invited is a great way of reducing the risk of cervical cancer, even if you've had the HPV vaccination."

Cervical screening uses a test called cytology, which most people know as the 'smear test'. Cytology involves taking a sample of cells from the cervix with a small brush.

In England and Northern Ireland women from age 25 to 64 are invited for cervical screening. Women aged 25 to 49 are invited every three years. After that women are invited every five years.

The HSCIC Cervical Screening Programme (2011-12) report looked at the percentage of women who were eligible for cervical screening who had been screened at least once in the previous five years, or three years, depending on their age group. This percentage is known as coverage.

Coverage for 25 to 49 year olds within the last 3 and a half years was at 73.5 per cent in 2012. This compares to 73.7 per cent in 2011 and 71.7 per cent in 2002.

Coverage for 50 to 64 year olds within the last 5 years was at 77.8 per cent in 2012, compared to 78.0 per cent in 2011 and 81.0 per cent in 2002.

Nearly all (95.2 per cent) of women were expected to receive their test results within two weeks of attending a cervical scan appointment, an improvement on the 78.9 per cent who received their results within a fortnight during the previous year.

Tim Straughan, chief executive of HSCIC, said: "These figures provide invaluable information about cervical screening in England - as without good quality information it is impossible to clearly measure the reach of such a vital programme."

Copyright Press Association 2012