What do women need to know today?
This week is Cervical Cancer Prevention Week (24 – 30th January). Every day in the UK eight women are diagnosed with cervical cancer and three women will lose their lives to the disease . Cervical cancer is largely preventable thanks to cervical screening and the HPV vaccination programme. The WI’s pioneering campaign called for better screening facilities, more public information and an effective recall system, which was first achieved in 1988. But in recent years take-up of cervical screening has declined year on year.
Research by cervical cancer charity Jo’s Trust has revealed that one in three 25 – 29 year old women in the UK do not attend their smear test when invited . In England, cervical screening peaked at around 82% in the late 1990s but rates are now just above 78% . In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, screening rates are very similar. Worryingly cervical cancer is on the increase, with the Office for National Statistics data showing a 6% rise in cases between 2013 and 2012. Even more worrying is that the UK has one of the lowest survival rates for the disease out of the OECD countries . This highlights the importance of cervical screening as the NHS cervical screening service saves around 5,000 lives a year in England .
In 2014 Jo’s Trust published a report which explored the financial impact of cervical cancer on the woman, the NHS and the state. It revealed that the average cost to the NHS per person diagnosed with stage 2 or later cervical cancer is £19,261, while for those at stage 1a, the cost to the NHS is around £1,379 per person. In addition, the combined financial burden of cancer-related costs, additional living arrangements and loss of income for women diagnosed with more advanced cancer is £1,102 a month. However, early detection reduced the financial impact on individuals and their families to just £360 a month .
These figures highlight the importance of early diagnosis, not only to increase the chance of recovering, but also to reduce the cost of cervical cancer to the NHS and some of the impacts on the individual woman and family.
The WI’s campaign made a huge impact in expanding access to screening and raising awareness of the issue, but it is clear there is still more to be done. The NFWI is calling on members to educate themselves and others about cervical cancer screenings and speak with friends, family and colleagues about the disease and whether they have had a screening recently.