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Are cervical screening rates really increasing?

by Henry Scowcroft | Analysis

18 February 2009

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Cervical screening detects abnormal cells before they develop into cancer

Cervical screening detects abnormal cells before they develop into cancer

When celebrities talk openly about any illness, they inevitably help to raise public awareness of their condition.

We’ve seen this happen when, for example, soap operas feature plot lines about a particular cancer – and its been happening since Jade Goody talked publicly about her battle against cervical cancer.

But does this awareness actually translate into action?

Since the sad news of Jade ‘s diagnosis of cervical cancer, and her public battle with the disease, there have been several reports in the media that cervical screening rates have increased in the UK

But these reports aren’t based on official screening figures released by the NHS screening programme. The figures come from interviews with staff at individual hospitals, so whether they are valid across the whole country remains to be seen.

The NHS Screening Programme will report on annual screening rates later this year. Although we think it’s highly likely that their figures will show an increase in screening (given the similar increase in breast cancer screening after Kylie Minogue was diagnosed), we can’t say how large this might be, nor whether it’ll ultimately have an impact on cancer detection rates.

We do know that, last year, around four in five women went for screening after receiving their invitation. Jade’s story has the potential to save lives if it encourages  those 20 percent women who have previously  not taken up their screening invitation to take it up now.

What we can say for sure is that, as we noted the other week, traffic through the cervical cancer pages of our website has increased significantly.

But it’s premature to conclude from this, or from the figures mentioned in media reports, that more women are going for screening across the UK.