Cervical cancer screening uptake falls slightly


The uptake of cervical cancer screening has fallen slightly, with women in deprived parts of the country less likely to get checked.

Official figures show 72.8% of eligible women aged 25 to 64 had been screened adequately in 2017/18, down 0.6 percentage points on the previous year.

Uptake fell in line with increasing deprivation, from 77.8% of women in the most affluent areas, to 66.8% in the least well-off parts of the country.

Younger women were also less likely that older women to get screened.

The figures show uptake is higher for women who have been vaccinated against the human papilloma virus (HPV), suggesting awareness may be raised among this group due to the immunisation programme.

The aim of screening, commonly known as a smear test, is to identify cell changes in the cervix which could develop to become malignant, thereby reducing cervical cancer rates.

Robert Music, chief executive of Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, said: “I am sad to see that attendance has once again fallen across every age group meaning with well over one in four women not taking up their invitation.

“Cervical screening remains the best protection against cervical cancer and falling attendance means we are only going to see diagnoses of this life destroying disease which could have be prevented.

“There is no one, quick fix to turning round this situation, instead we need sustained, collaborated and concerted effort nationally and locally.

“Innovation and improved access is essential if we are to see uptake improve and it is positive that the Scottish Government are investing in new projects to reduce inequalities in screening, this includes funding our new community outreach work.

“Our latest research found 86% of Scottish women would prefer to self-sample at home and I hope to see this offered as part of the programme soon.”

Public Health Minister Joe FitzPatrick said: “Cervical screening saves lives. That’s why we are continuing to carry out a range of work to encourage women to attend their screening appointments.

“This includes a series of national marketing campaigns – the most recent of which particularly targeted younger women, where we know uptake is lower.

“Up to £5 million of funding from the Cancer Strategy is being invested in the cancer screening programmes, including cervical screening, to encourage participation.

“We are also supporting the work of charities like Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust to increase awareness and address some of the barriers to participation.

“To enable the charity to expand their reach we are funding their innovative new outreach service targeting women less likely to attend, as well as their first ever Scottish roadshow providing information and support about cervical screening and cervical cancer to high streets and retail parks across Scotland.”


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