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Mission to boost cervical cancer screening rates

Mission to boost cervical cancer screening rates

Published at 6:02am 18th June 2015.

Yorkshire Cancer Research has announced plans to improve cervical cancer screening attendance among older women.

The charity will investigate why they're less likely to attend appointments, as well as developing training and encouraging them to get tested.

Cases of cervical cancer are particularly high in women aged over 70, and it's believed that this is due to fewer women attending screening appointments after the age of 55.

Screening is currently offered to women aged between 25 and 64.

In a report published in The British Medical Journal, researchers have called for the screening age to be raised to 70 and for older women to be targeted in health campaigns.

Lead author Dr Sue Sherman argued that perceptions of cervical cancer as a 'younger women's disease' need to change.

The £135,000 Yorkshire Cancer Research project will include in-depth interviews with patients aged 55 to 64 in Yorkshire to understand their views and experiences.

Health professionals will also be interviewed to determine attitudes towards the screening of older women and views on its effectiveness.

Yorkshire and the Humber has the highest incidence rate of cervical cancer in England.

Project lead Dr Una Macleod, Professor of Primary Care Medicine at the Hull York Medical School, said: "Prevention and early detection of cervical cancer through screening is vital. Previous studies have found that for every 1,000 women screened regularly between 50 and 64 years old, there would be roughly nine fewer cancers between 65 and 70 years old. Screening substantially reduces the risk of cervical cancer in older women.

"However, whilst older women are at increased risk of developing cervical cancer, they are least likely to present for screening. There is a lack of interview-based research into cervical screening experiences and attitudes amongst patients and health professionals. Our investigation will be the first step in promoting awareness across patient and GP groups, with the aim of increasing the early detection of cervical cancer and achieving better outcomes among Yorkshire patients."

The project is part of a £5 million investment recently announced by Yorkshire Cancer Research, which will focus on improving cancer incidence and mortality rates.

According to data provided by Public Health England, people in Yorkshire are more likely to get cancer, and more likely to die from it, than most other counties in England.

Dr Kathryn Scott, Head of Research and Innovation at Yorkshire Cancer Research, said: "Some women don't realise that there is a spike in the number of cases of cervical cancer over the age of 70. It's important that they realise that continuing to attend screening appointments is vital in identifying abnormalities at an early stage when they are relatively easy to treat.

"As a charity, we are keen to encourage screening uptake in all three of the national screening programmes available in the UK, including bowel, breast and cervical cancers. Early diagnosis saves lives, and we see screening as a vital tool in our goal to help more people in Yorkshire survive cancer."