Concern as cancer screening hits 10-year low

Cervical screening is at a 10-year low while the number of deaths from cervical cancer has increased by 24 per cent.
Cervical screening is at a 10-year low while the number of deaths from cervical cancer has increased by 24 per cent.

The number of deaths from cervical cancer has increased by 24 per cent while the number of women attending cervical screening has reached a 10-year low, a national charity has warned.

The latest statistics for Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust show that more than a quarter of women in Scotland are not attending this potentially life-saving test when invited and the charity is concerned that more lives will be lost to the disease if this trend is not reversed.

As of March 31 last year, only 69.2 per cent of eligible women had been screened. Incidence has risen rapidly and 385 women were diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2014, a rise from 318 the year before and the highest it has been since 1993. Deaths from cervical cancer has also risen and 116 women lost their lives in 2015, up from 88 in 2015.

Cervical Cancer Prevention Week runs from 22-28 January and there is particular concern about women aged 25-29 as more than one in three do not attend cervical screening. In 2015-16 64.3 per cent had attended cervical screening but in 2006-07 this coverage was as high as 72.3 per cent.

Cases of cervical cancer in younger women have also increased dramatically with a 57 per cent rise among women aged 30-34 and a 58 per cent increase among 25-29-year-olds.

More than half of this age group have also delayed or not attended screening with almost a quarter admitting they have delayed for over one year and almost one in 10 having never attended the test. Reasons for not attending included simply putting it off, worrying it would be embarrassing and worrying it would be painful.

Robert Music, Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust chief executive, said: “We have one of the best cervical screening programmes in the world saving approximately 5,000 lives every year. However, at a time when the number attending in Scotland is at a 10-year low, we need to be seeing increased investment in targeted awareness campaigns to encourage women to take up their invitation for cervical screening and not delay attending.

“We are extremely supportive of the new advertising campaign which NHS Scotland is launching later in 2017, and hope this will help increase awareness. Cervical screening prevents 70% of cervical cancers from developing and if we do not prioritise prevention and increase investment in prevention we will be faced with more women facing the physical and psychological cost of cervical cancer, increased burden on the NHS and state, and more lives lost.”