PHE Cervical Cancer Screening Campaign to Launch Next Month
22nd February 2019
The NHS Cervical Screening Programme has made a positive impact to cervical cancer mortality since its introduction in 1988, saving around 5,000 lives each and every year. However, coverage is currently at a 20-year low. Data published in NHS Digital show that, at 31 March 2018, the percentage of eligible women - 25 to 64 year olds - screened adequately was just 71.4%. Therefore, next month Public Health England (PHE) will launch its first national multimedia cervical screening campaign and hope to tackle the issue of low screening rates. Aims of the new campaign are to:
  • Explain the risks of cervical cancer.
  • Show the preventative benefits of the often misunderstood screening test.
  • Urge all women to respond to their screening invitation.
  • Urge women to consider booking an appointment if they have missed previous invitations.
  • Address issues of fear and embarrassment.
Next month will be the 10th anniversary of the death of Big Brother star Jade Goody, who sadly lost her fight against cervical cancer on 22 March 2009. Therefore, media interest is likely to be high in March and the PHE will use this in their efforts to raise awareness. Of course, choosing to be screened is every woman’s own personal choice to make, but the campaign will look to help women become less fearful of taking up the offer and improve cervical screening acceptance rates across the country. In turn, this will reduce the unnecessary cancer and mortality rates of women. PHE Marketing has carried out research with women least likely to take up the offer of a screening test for cervical cancer to understand their point of view and what they would need. These barriers to screening were found to be mainly:
  • Lack of knowledge about cervical cancer and the purpose of cervical screening.
  • Embarrassment about having the test.
  • Fear of pain.
  • Fear of a positive diagnosis from the test.
Interestingly, the research found that women feel empowered following attending their screening and actually want to protect and empower fellow women.

Important changes by PHE

PHE recognise that cervical screening is evolving and have made numerous efforts to modernise their approach, such as:
  • The introduction of the HPV primary screening test.
  • Pilots to trial text messaging reminders
  • The possibility of using a home-based self-sample, which is being considered in a UK National Screening Committee consultation
The developments are a step in the right direction and PHE hope that one day no woman should have to lose their life because of cervical cancer. Professor Anne Mackie, PHE Director of Screening said: “The Be Clear on Cancer campaign will play a vital role in raising the awareness of cervical screening, as it’s a real concern that fewer women, particularly younger women, are taking screening up. “We know that for some women worries about embarrassment or discomfort can put them off taking the test. We hope the campaign will make it clearer to them what the test involves so they can decide if it’s right for them. “We will share more information about the campaign as and when it’s available. In the meantime, please inform colleagues of the exciting news that the first England-wide cervical screening campaign will start in March 2019. “We look forward to your support.”

PHE Screening blogs

PHE Screening blogs offer the latest news from all NHS screening programmes. You can register to receive updates direct to your inbox, so you don’t need to keep checking for new blogs being posted.