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Low numbers of young women attending screening linked to sharp rise in cervical cancer

Cervical cancer is rising in women aged 25-29, reflected in the decrease in numbers attending screening, a charity says

Cervical cancer is rising in women aged 25-29, reflected in the decrease in numbers attending screening, a charity says

Picture shows a gynaecologist performing a cervical smear on a teenage patient. Cervical cancer is rising in women aged 25-29, reflecting their failure to attend screening, a charity says.
Picture: Alamy

A steep rise in cervical cancer among young women shows a lack of progress in tackling the disease, with worryingly low numbers attending screening, says a cancer charity.

Cancer Research UK said cervical cancer among women aged 25-29 jumped by 54% in the decade to 2015-17 suggesting that potentially life-saving interventions were not reaching the people who needed them.

This came after rates of cervical cancer in Britain had halved in the 20 years to 2004-2006.

Cancer Research UK chief executive Michelle Mitchell said: ‘These figures show how research has protected thousands of people in the UK from cervical cancer, but they also highlight a worrying trend that shows progress is stalling and stagnating, which could undermine this success.’

The latest figures show that an average of 3,192 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year, mostly in younger age groups, Cancer Research UK said. About 400 cases a year are in women aged 25-29.

The NHS says the combined effect of better screening and the success of vaccinating children for the human papillomavirus (HPV) could eventually result in the disease being eliminated.

However, there is concern about falling screening rates, with surveys showing that young women feel embarrassed or worry the tests will hurt. The number of young women seeking screening rose after the death of TV celebrity Jade Goody from cervical cancer in 2009, but that effect has worn off.

Figures from Public Health England show that just 70% of women aged 25-49 are being adequately screened, falling short of the 80% regarded as acceptable by the NHS.

Women between the ages of 25 and 64 are invited for regular cervical screening under the NHS Cervical Screening Programme.

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