Cervical screening awareness week (8 - 14 June 2014) Have we learned enough?

Jade Goody's legacy was to raise awareness of cervical cancer among younger women - but have we learned enough? In the run up to Cervical Screening Awareness Week, over 20% of women in the UK still fail to attend cervical screening when invited and The Eve Appeal is determined to encourage more women to attend.

Over the last 10 years, we have seen a downward trend in the number of women screened; apart from an increase in 2009 associated with media attention around Jade's sad death, coverage has fallen or stayed the same since 2003 when it was 81.2%.

Cervical screening can prevent cervical cancer and is estimated to save up to 5,000 lives each year and yet attendance is still falling.

Each year in the UK over 3,000 new cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed and more than half of these are in women under the age

For women of all ages, the best way of reducing your risk of developing cervical cancer is regular screening and in England, Wales and N. Ireland women aged 25 to 49 are invited for screening from the age of 25 and Scotland will be amended to come in line with the rest of the UK next year. However it is important to understand that cervical screening is not screening for gynaecological cancers, rather for abnormal cells on the cervix which can lead to cervical cancer.

Abnormal cells on the cervix don't usually have any symptoms, which is why it is so important to go for screenings regularly. If there are signs of abnormal cells, treating them is often simple and can prevent cancer developing.

Comments Robert Marsh, CEO of The Eve Appeal, “Our hopes are that increased awareness around the importance of regular screening, along with further understanding as to what the screening is set out to detect, will help dispel any outstanding myths and encourage women to attend their cervical screening promptly when invited.”

Nearly all cervical cancers are caused by a common sexually transmitted infection called human papillomavirus (HPV) which most women have at some time but usually clears up on its own. If the infection doesn't clear up there is a risk of abnormal cells developing which could become cervical cancer over time.

Almost all cases of cervical cancer can be prevented by screening and HPV vaccination. Says Robert Marsh, CEO of The Eve Appeal “The earlier cervical cancer is diagnosed, the better the outcome will be. Screening is free and can save your life so please, pick up the phone as soon as that letter drops through the letterbox.”

To reduce your risk of developing cervical cancer:

  • Go for screening when invited
  • Have the HPV vaccine if you are offered it
  • If you smoke, try to stop
  • Use a condom to reduce your risk of HPV and other sexually transmitted infections

Fact Sheet - all you need to know about cervical screening

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Last revised: 2 June 2017
Next review: 2 June 2020