Cervical Screening Week: Uptake falls in Islington

Fewer people have received cervical tests in Islington, figures show.

By Will Grimond, Data Reporter

A person wearing a stethoscope
Photo: RADAR

Fewer people have received cervical tests in Islington, figures show.

Ahead of Cervical Screening Awareness Week, which starts on Monday, a cancer charity is urging people to get tested and share their experiences with others.

Cervical screenings, also known as ‘smear tests’, are offered to women and people with a cervix aged 25 to 49 every three years, while those aged 50 to 64 receive their invitations every five years. A small sample of cells is taken and checked for pre-cancerous abnormalities and viruses such as HPV, which can lead to cancer.

Figures from NHS England show, as of December, 52,888 people across both age groups in Islington had been screened within that time frame.

This was 54.5% of the 96,975 people eligible – with the screening rate falling from 55.7% a year before.

This also means 24,693 more people need to be screened to hit the Government’s target rate of 80%.

Samantha Dixon, CEO of Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, said: “Through screening we have the opportunity to eliminate cervical cancer – yet coverage has been in decline for the last 20 years, and alarmingly, has not returned to pre-pandemic levels.

“Raising awareness during Cervical Screening Awareness Week can help spread support and understanding.

“However, to address the barriers affecting screening rates we need a step change from government to make it more accessible to women.”

Numbers have dropped precipitously over the coronavirus pandemic – across England, the rate for those aged 25 to 49 fell from 70.7% in at the end of 2019 to 66.4% at the end of 2022.

For those in the older age category, the rate dropped from 76.4% to 74.7% over the same period – although this was only a 0.1% decrease from 2021.

Every area in England saw a fall during the pandemic – in Islington the overall screening rate was 59.9% at the end of 2019.

Speaking in January, the national clinical director for cancer at NHS England, Professor Peter Johnson, said: “Screening is an effective way to prevent cervical cancer developing or to catch it at a very early stage, which is why it is especially important that people attend their screening appointments.

“There are lots of reasons why somebody might not want to come forward – embarrassment, inconvenience, or uncertainty – but please speak to a healthcare professional if you are unsure.”

“It’s also important to understand that HPV can remain undetected for many years before later going on to cause abnormal cells which can lead to cancer, so even if you’ve previously had a negative test, it is vital that you attend your next one,” he urged.


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