This week is Cervical Cancer Prevention Week, and with the theme this year focused on reducing risk, it’s a good opportunity to get involved and raise awareness of how screening helps to lower the likelihood of developing cervical cancer.
Screening is a very useful weapon in the arsenal against cancer. It aims to detect abnormal cells in the cervix that could, if undetected and untreated, develop into cervical cancer. If screening finds these cells we can refer women for effective treatment.
Mortality rates have fallen by up to 70% since the introduction of the NHS Cervical Screening Programme in 1988. In 2015, 2,517 cervical cancer cases were registered and there were 660 deaths from cervical cancer in England. Despite fewer cases of cervical cancer, incidence rates remain a concern with fewer women attending for screening.
Although there are other factors that can reduce cervical cancer risk such as condom use, late first pregnancy, not smoking or giving up smoking by far the best reduction in risk is to take up the invitation for regular screening. Recent research looked at how screening reduces the risk of cervical cancer. It concluded that screening prevents 70% of cervical cancer deaths in England and this could increase to 83% if everyone attended screening when invited.
Cervical screening coverage tool
Coverage means the number of women who have attended for screening within the last 3 or 5 years – depending on their age. In the past 12 months PHE has developed the cervical screening coverage tool that enables GP practices, local authorities and CCGs to access the coverage data for their area. We have also produced Health Matters: a call to action to GP practices, local authorities and CCGs to raise awareness, map the coverage issues and improve access to screening. PHE will continue to raise awareness and work with NHS England and local authorities in an effort to improve cervical screening coverage.
Smear for Smear campaign
Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust plays an important role in advising the cervical screening programme. Its dedicated team is leading Cervical Cancer Prevention week and has many resources to:
- help women consider how they can lower their risk
- help raise awareness of cervical cancer
The charity is running the #Smearforsmear campaign, encouraging women to make sure they don't forget their cervical screening test.
The CEO of Jo's Trust, Rob Music explains:
Cervical Cancer Prevention Week provides a valuable opportunity to reach as many people as possible with messages about symptoms, the HPV vaccine and smear tests. This year’s campaign has been hugely successful with more women than ever telling us the campaign, and #SmearForSmear in particular, has encouraged or reminded them to go for their smear test, which is incredibly positive. I want to thank everyone who has supported through telling their story, arranging awareness stalls, providing extra screening clinics, supporting on social media and also to the media who have covered the week so widely.
Cervical cancer is preventable. The impact of a cervical cancer diagnosis is far reaching both emotionally and physically. Screening is offered to women aged 25 to 64. By raising awareness we hope to ensure women receive the information they need to make an informed choice.
PHE Screening blogs
PHE Screening blogs provide up to date news from all NHS screening programmes. You can register to receive updates direct to your inbox, so there’s no need to keep checking for new blogs.