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Why record numbers of women aren't being screened for cervical cancer

cervical cancer screening
Not enough women having cervical cancer screeningsGetty Images

Record numbers of women aren’t being screened for cervical cancer, according to new stats.

Data from NHS England, published in the Guardian, shows that around 4.6 million women aged 25 to 64 in England have never been screened for cervical cancer or have not had recent tests. This figure amounts to 30% of women in England, which is a ten-year high.

In the UK, around 3,200 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer every year. Of those, more than 800 lose their lives.

The new data comes during Cervical Cancer Prevention Week, which runs from today (23rd January) to 29th January.

To mark this week, UK charity Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust has published a new report on cervical cancer in the UK. The report shows that only 17% of healthcare and associated professionals surveyed thought that enough was being done to eliminate cervical cancer in the UK. It also found that only 20% think enough is being done to ensure people get the HPV vaccine, and 16% think that enough is being done to make sure people attend their cervical screenings.

When it comes to the biggest barriers stopping eligible people from attending their cervical screening appointments, the report showed that anxiety was the top reason (66%), followed by workforce pressures in primary care (63%) and low levels of understanding among the public (62%).

Cervical cancer can be prevented through cervical screening and the HPV vaccine, which has been routinely offered to girls aged 12-13 since 2008 and to boys aged 12-13 since September 2019. But uptake of the vaccine has declined – in 2021-2022, it was down by 7% for girls and 8.6% for boys.

Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust is calling on the UK government to do more to tackle cervical cancer in this country. The charity’s latest report showed that, when asked what the biggest opportunities were to eliminate cervical cancer in the UK, 70% of the healthcare and associated professionals surveyed said self-sampling for HPV, while 68% stressed the importance of national public awareness campaigns about vaccinations and screenings.

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