Cervical screening saves nearly 2,000 lives a year and could save hundreds more if women didn’t miss screenings, new research suggests.
A new study found screening prevents 70 per cent of deaths from cervical cancer.
But more than a million women are putting their lives at risk by missing vital cervical screening checks, the latest official figures showed.
Today’s research found if all women aged 25 to 64 regularly attended screening, the effectiveness of screening could jump to 83 per cent.
Most lives could be saved in the 50 to 64-year-old age group, experts from the Queen Mary University of London said, predicting that five times as many women of this age would die if there was no screening.
Screening prevents 70 per cent of deaths from cervical cancer but could reach 83 per cent if more women attended their appointments, a study found
The team studied the records of more than 11,000 women in England who had been diagnosed with cervical cancer.
Around 800 women die from cervical cancer every year in England.
The study predicted that 1,827 women more would die from the disease if there was no screening.
If all women took up their screening invitation, a further 347 lives could be saved.
Lead researcher, Professor Peter Sasieni, said: ‘This study looked at the impact of cervical screening on deaths from the disease and estimated the number of lives the screening programme saves each year.
‘Thousands of women in the UK are alive and healthy today thanks to cervical screening.
‘The cervical screening programme already prevents thousands of cancers each year and as it continues to improve, by testing all samples for the human papilloma virus (HPV), even more women are likely to avoid this disease.’
The NHS screening programme invites women to be screened every three years between the ages of 25 and 49.
They are then invited every five years up to the age of 64.
Over the last 10 years, cases of the disease in women aged 25 to 29 have soared by 59.2 per cent.
But despite the worrying rise, screening coverage – the percentage of eligible women recorded as having been properly tested at least once in the last five years – has been falling.
The number of women attending screenings surged following the death of Jade Goody in 2009.
Jade Goody, pictured here before her cervical cancer diagnosis, helped highlight the importance of screening
When the reality television star died of cervical cancer, more than 400,000 extra women in England were screened for the disease.
However, the number of people attending screenings has now fallen back to ‘pre-Jade Goody’ levels, charities have previously warned.
Dr Claire Knight, health information manager at Cancer Research UK, said: ‘Whether or not to go for screening is an individual choice, but Cancer Research UK recommends women take up the offer to attend cervical screening when invited.
‘It’s important to remember that cervical screening is for women without symptoms.
‘Women who have any unusual or persistent bleeding, pain, or change in vaginal discharge – even if they’ve been screened recently and whatever their age – should get it checked out by their GP.
‘Chances are it won’t be cancer but, if it is, getting it diagnosed and treated early can make a real difference.’
The study was published in the British Journal of Cancer.
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS OF CERVICAL CANCER?
Cancer of the cervix – the neck of the womb – affects women of all ages, but is most common in those aged 30 to 45 years old.
As with all gynaecological cancers, the sooner cervical cancer is diagnosed, the better a woman’s chances of survival.
Nearly all cervical cancers are caused by the common, sexually transmitted infection, the human papillomavirus (HPV).
Most women will have HPV at some point in their lives, though for most the virus clears up of its own accord.
About 2,900 cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed each year in the UK.
Experts say the new test is far more accurate than the current smear test which relies on cell experts in the lab, cytologists, looking down a microscope to check for abnormalities (file image shown)
The symptoms aren’t always obvious and may not appear until the disease has reached an advanced stage.
In most cases, abnormal bleeding is the first sign. It usually occurs after sex although any unusual bleeding should be investigated.
Other symptoms include pain in and around the vagina during sex, an unpleasant smelling discharge and pain when passing urine.
If the cancer has spread there may be other symptoms including constipation, blood in the urine, loss of bladder control, bone pain and swelling in the legs and kidneys.
To lessen the risk of developing the disease, experts recommend:
* Go for cervical screening when invited
* Have the HPVvaccine, if offered
* Quit smoking
*Use a condom to reduce the risk of contracting HPV
Even if you have had the HPV vaccine and have a normal cervical smear result, it is vital you raise symptoms with a doctor.