Friday, 13 March 2009

Rethink on Cervical Smear age

Women below the current age limit of 25 could soon be offered cervical smear tests.

The Government is carrying out a review of the current age limit in England which is already in line with World Health Organisation recommendations.
In making their decision, a panel of leading experts will assess the impact of HPV vaccinations on future levels on cervical cancer in young women.

They will also assess the awareness among women of cervical cancer's symptoms and likely take-up rates of any new programme.
Tony Kerridge, international spokesman for Marie Stopes, said: "We are delighted that the Department of Health are re-considering their decision to cut routine screening for under 25s. Cervical screening currently begins at age 20 for women in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, but women in England have to wait until they are 25.

"Jade Goody's case has shown that cervical cancer, whilst extremely rare among women under 30, does nevertheless represent a potential threat to their lives and wellbeing."
He also warned that the HPV vaccine programme does not offer cast-iron protection against the disease.
"The vaccine is not a bullet-proof shield against cervical cancer but there is concern that, once vaccinated, some young girls may think they are 'safe'. It is therefore vital to encourage girls to start thinking about their own cervical health as early as possible, and to develop a screening culture amongst young women to ensure as many cases of this preventable form of cancer are detected as possible."
National Cancer Director Professor Mike Richards said: "It is important that we look at any emerging evidence so that we can be sure, and can assure young women, that this is still what is best for their health.

"Early detection and treatment can prevent around 75 per cent of cervical cancers developing in women so we will also look at what more we can do to highlight the importance and benefits of screening."
Health Minister Ann Keen said: "We are very proud of our cancer screening programmes in the NHS, which are internationally recognised as world-class.
"Cervical screening saves around 4,500 lives every year and we want to ensure that our programme remains in the best interests of young women.

"Experts will review the latest available evidence in this area as well as consider how we can increase awareness of the importance of screening and encourage more women to decide to take up this important service."

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