Women urged to accept invitations for NHS cervical screening | Cervical cancer

NHS officials have urged women to attend cervical screening after figures showed a third of under-50s are not taking up the invitation.

Every year, around 3,200 women in the UK are diagnosed with cervical cancer and 850 die from it. It is the 14th most common cancer affecting women in Britain, with women aged between 30 and 34 most likely to be diagnosed.

The disease develops when abnormal cells appear in the lining of the cervix and grow, eventually joining together to form a tumor. If the cells are not detected in time, the cancer can spread to other parts of the body.

Of the 11 million eligible women aged 25 to 49, 65.8% accepted their invitation and were screened on time in December last year, lower than the 74.1% among those aged 50 to 64.

Last year, NHS England chief Amanda Pritchard pledged to eradicate cervical cancer by 2040.

He said the combination of HPV vaccination and screening for the disease meant its elimination was a realistic ambition.

HPV refers to a group of viruses that can be transmitted through sexual contact and do not cause symptoms.

About 13 high-risk HPV types are known to cause 99.7% of cervical cancers.

The HPV vaccine is given to boys and girls when they are between 12 and 13 years old and is also offered to people at high risk of contracting HPV.

Since last September, children have received a single dose of the vaccine when they are in their eighth year instead of the two doses administered previously.

The NHS is urging all women to have cervical screening even if they are vaccinated, as the vaccine does not protect against all types of HPV, so there is still a small chance of getting cervical cancer. .

Steve Russell, director of delivery and national director of vaccination and screening for NHS England, said: “We have set an ambitious target of eliminating cervical cancer within the next two decades, one of the few countries in the world to have committed with this”. and we are doing everything we can to achieve our ambition by making it as easy as possible to book appointments and continuing to send invitations and reminders to all eligible women.

“But to make this a reality, we need to see more women turn up to their cervical screening appointments when invited – even if you previously missed your appointment, don’t wait for another invitation before contacting your GP – you can still book now and this could save your life.”

The NHS invites women to be screened every three to five years, depending on their age, or more frequently if HPV is detected.

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