Cervical cancer could be eradicated in three decades, experts claim

A student looks at matter under a microscope
A student looks at matter under a microscope

Cervical cancer could effectively be eliminated from the UK in around three decades, experts have claimed.

An estimated 88 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer in North Yorkshire every year, according to the most recent figures from Public Health England.

That’s a rate of 11 cases for every 100,000 women.

But scientists have predicted the cancer could soon be a thing of the past, after plotting the long-term effects of high levels of smear test screening and vaccination.

Professor Karen Canfell, who led the new study published in The Lancet Oncology journal, said: “Despite the enormity of the problem, our findings suggest that global elimination is within reach with tools that are already available, provided that both high coverage of HPV vaccination and cervical screening can be achieved.”

Women aged between 25 and 49 are invited for a cervical screening – also known as a smear test – every three years in England, while those aged 50 to 64 attend every five years.

Cancer charities have warned against complacency with screenings.

In North Yorkshire, the take-up rate for cervical screening has fallen for two consecutive years.

Only 78% of the 151,400 women who were due a smear test before the end of March 2017 attended an appointment, meaning 33,795 missed out.

Cervical cancer is almost always caused by the human papilloma virus, which is spread through any kind of skin-to-skin contact or sexual intercourse.

Girls in England are offered free HPV jabs at school during Years 8 and 9 when they are aged between 12 and 14, to help protect them from the virus.

However, PHE figures show 94% of girls in North Yorkshire were given the recommended two doses of the vaccine by the end of Year 9 in 2017-18.

This was the highest coverage rate in England - but 178 girls were still left unprotected.

However, a spokeswoman for PHE said the immunisation programme was still “one of the most successful around the world” and had helped protect millions of girls since its launch in 2008.

Across England, cervical screening coverage fell for the fourth year in a row last year.

Robert Music, chief executive of Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, said women are finding it increasingly difficult to access appointments.

He added: “We cannot sit back and let cervical screening coverage continue to plummet or diagnoses of this often preventable cancer will rise and more mothers, daughters, sisters and friends will be lost.”

The latest figures on new cervical cancer diagnoses cover 2011 to 2013.

Each year there are 3,126 new cases of cervical cancer in the UK and 854 women die from the disease.

Today, an estimated 99.8% of cases in the UK are considered to be preventable.