Friday, 29 January 2016

Cervical Cancer Screening

The WI first passed a resolution calling for a national screening programme to detect cervical cancer in 1964. The WI’s campaign successfully made the case for screening facilities, as well as raising awareness about the importance of cervical screening.

What do women need to know today?

This week is Cervical Cancer Prevention Week (24 – 30th January). Every day in the UK eight women are diagnosed with cervical cancer and three women will lose their lives to the disease [1]. Cervical cancer is largely preventable thanks to cervical screening and the HPV vaccination programme. The WI’s pioneering campaign called for better screening facilities, more public information and an effective recall system, which was first achieved in 1988. But in recent years take-up of cervical screening has declined year on year.

Research by cervical cancer charity Jo’s Trust has revealed that one in three 25 – 29 year old women in the UK do not attend their smear test when invited [2]. In England, cervical screening peaked at around 82% in the late 1990s but rates are now just above 78% [3]. In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, screening rates are very similar. Worryingly cervical cancer is on the increase, with the Office for National Statistics data showing a 6% rise in cases between 2013 and 2012. Even more worrying is that the UK has one of the lowest survival rates for the disease out of the OECD countries [4]. This highlights the importance of cervical screening as the NHS cervical screening service saves around 5,000 lives a year in England [5].

In 2014 Jo’s Trust published a report which explored the financial impact of cervical cancer on the woman, the NHS and the state. It revealed that the average cost to the NHS per person diagnosed with stage 2 or later cervical cancer is £19,261, while for those at stage 1a, the cost to the NHS is around £1,379 per person. In addition, the combined financial burden of cancer-related costs, additional living arrangements and loss of income for women diagnosed with more advanced cancer is £1,102 a month. However, early detection reduced the financial impact on individuals and their families to just £360 a month [6].

These figures highlight the importance of early diagnosis, not only to increase the chance of recovering, but also to reduce the cost of cervical cancer to the NHS and some of the impacts on the individual woman and family.

The WI’s campaign made a huge impact in expanding access to screening and raising awareness of the issue, but it is clear there is still more to be done. The NFWI is calling on members to educate themselves and others about cervical cancer screenings and speak with friends, family and colleagues about the disease and whether they have had a screening recently. 


  1. Women need to know that screening is a choice, and an option that they can accept and decline as they see fitting their personal circumstances. You make no mention of the HPV virus being a necessity in women to put them at any risk of cervical cancer, and HPV self-test kits have been around for many years now, but deliberately withheld from general use to prevent women from finding out they are negative and leaving the programme. HPV negative means no risk of cervical cancer. It is time women were treated as intelligent, informed human beings who can decide what is best for themselves, instead of being herded like silly, mindless school girls into these patronising screening programmes.

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.