Cervical Cancer Prevention Week – January 2019

3 Min Read


This time last year I looked at Signs and Screening for Cervical Cancer as part of Cervical Cancer Awareness Week, which is when charities such as Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust and Eve Appeal raise awareness of cervical cancer and the need for testing.

Cervical screening coverage is still falling

And there’s a real need for it. Since last year cervical screening coverage in England has continued to fall, and is at a 21-year low. Of 4.46 million women invited for a smear in 2017/18, 1.28 million did not turn up. In other words, more than a quarter of women invited for a smear did not attend.

The biggest falls in take-up were amongst the young (25-29) and more mature women (60-64). Curiously, women in the well-to-do London areas of Kensington and Chelsea are particularly hard to reach. Their coverage is the worst in England at 51.6%, compared against a national target of 80%.

While the majority will be cancer free, it is a mathematical near-certainty some women who did not attend have cervical cancer and are at this moment missing early treatment, and a possible cure.

Reasons for non-attendance are complicated, but embarrassment and the difficulty in accessing screening appointments are regularly cited as causes. By sheer bad luck in 2018 this was compounded by NHS IT failures. As reported last November there were widespread failures in a system responsible for inviting women for testing and sending results. It is not yet known how serious the effect of these delays is going to be, but it is certainly cause for concern.

A piece of positive news for the year was the agreement that HPV vaccination should also be extended to boys. HPV, which can be transmitted sexually, is the virus which causes most cervical cancers and gender- neutral vaccination removes the stigma associated with this virus and the devastating impact it can have on a women’s health.

NHS Campaign for Cervical Cancer Awareness

In March 2019 the NHS will start its first ever campaign to raise awareness of cervical cancer and the ability to treat with early diagnosis. The campaign ties in with the 10th anniversary of the death of Jade Goody from cervical cancer in March 2009.

If you know someone who is avoiding their cervical screening, please support them by encouraging them to accept their invitation.

At Enable Law we act for women who have had delayed diagnosis of cervical cancer and we see the devastating consequences this can have. It is easy to put something off when it is difficult or unpleasant. But when the result could be a head start in the fight against cancer it must, surely, be worth doing?

Read more about the work of our cancer claim specialists here.