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Mass Cervical Cancer Screening Can Save Hundreds More Lives


A report published in the British Journal of Cancer has found that 350 more cervical cancer patients could potentially be saved, if all eligible women were to undertake screening.

Screening is offered to all women in the UK between the ages of 25 and 64, with invitations taking place every 3 years, and then every 5 years above age 49. Since screening began, the number of cases of cervical cancer have dropped significantly, resulting in its position dropping to the seventeenth most common cancer in females in the UK. Despite this, 800 women in the UK still die as a result of the cancer, a number which could be drastically reduced with regular tests encouraged on a larger scale.

During the ‘smear test’ cells are removed from the womb and examined microscopically, to examine any changes which could potentially develop into cancer of the cervix. This is accompanied by HPV testing, in which the cells are analysed for HPV (human papillomavirus) infection, where a positive result indicates a potential increased risk of cervical cancer.

The study has found that screening currently prevents 70% of cervical cancer deaths, a number which could rise to 83% if all eligible women were to regularly attend screening as recommended.

The impact of screening programmes has already been established, but this study is the first to confirm the significance of screening on deaths by the use of information from previous diagnoses. At the Queen Mary University of London, the information of over 11,000 UK inhabitants diagnosed with cervical cancer was used to estimate the doubling of diagnoses had the programme not been implemented.

With this information it is evident that increased participation in such programmes could have a significant effect on global health-care, with every life saved a victory in the control of disease.