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Cervical screening: proportion of younger women screened falls

24 October, 2013: The proportion of women aged 25 to 49 years who have had cervical screening has fallen by two percentage points, a new report from the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) shows.

HSCIC must be credited as the source of the figures in this release
Regional information available from this report

At 31 March 2013, 71.5 per cent of women aged between 25 and 49 had been screened in the last three and a half years, compared to 73.5 per cent at the same point in 2012.

The proportion of women screened (known as 'coverage')2 fell in every five year age group between 25 and 49 years from March 2012 to March 2013, but the largest percentage point decrease was among 35 to 39 year olds, where coverage dropped by 2.4 percentage points to 73.7 per cent.

Women between the ages of 25 and 64 are invited for regular cervical screening under the NHS Cervical Screening Programme. This is intended to detect abnormalities within the cervix that could, if undetected and untreated, develop into cervical cancer.

Women are invited for screening at different intervals depending on their age and coverage is calculated according to different timeframes for different age groups.

Today's report; Cervical Screening Programme, England, 2012-13, is used to inform policy and to monitor the quality and effectiveness of screening services. It also shows:

  • Coverage of the full target age group of 25 to 64 year olds was 78.3 per cent at March 31 2013 compared to 78.6 per cent at the same point in 2012 and 81.2 per cent in 2003.
  • Coverage of 50 to 64 year olds fell from 77.8 per cent at March 31 2012 to 77.5 per cent at March 31 2013.
  • 93.5 per cent of women aged 25 to 64 whose tests were adequate3 returned negative results, meaning no cell abnormalities were found, 6.5 per cent had a result categorised as abnormal4 and 1.2 per cent of women tested in 2012-13 had a result showing a high-grade abnormality.

HSCIC Chair Kingsley Manning, said: "This report provides vital information for clinicians and planners on how many women are being screened under this important programme.

"While we cannot tell how many abnormalities might be being missed among those women not taking up the invitation for screening, it is concerning to see the fall in coverage among the younger women."

Read the full Cervical Screening Programme report

ENDS


Notes to editors

1. The Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) was established on April 1 2013 as an Executive Non Departmental Public Body (ENDPB). The trusted source of authoritative data and information relating to health and care, HSCIC plays a fundamental role in driving better care, better services and better outcomes for patients. It supports the delivery of IT infrastructure, information systems and standards to ensure information flows efficiently and securely across the health and social care system to improve patient outcomes. Its work includes publishing more than 130 statistical publications annually; providing a range of specialist data services; managing informatics projects and programmes and developing and assuring national systems against appropriate contractual, clinical safety and information standards.

2. Women aged 25-49 are invited for routine screening every three years and those aged 50-64 are invited for routine screening every five years. Coverage is defined as the percentage of women in a population who were eligible for screening on March 31 in any given year and who were screened adequately within a specified period. As the frequency with which women are invited for screening is dependent on age, coverage is calculated differently for different age groups. For the complete target age group (25 to 64 years), coverage is calculated as the number of women in this age group who have had an adequate screening test within the last five years as a percentage of the eligible population aged 25-64. For those aged 25-49, coverage is calculated as the number of women in this age group who have had an adequate screening test within the last 3.5 years as a percentage of the eligible population aged 25 to 49. For those aged 50-64, coverage is calculated as the number of women in this age group who have had an adequate screening test within the last five years as a percentage of the eligible population aged 50 to 64. Women ineligible for screening and not included in coverage are those whose recall has been ceased for clinical reasons (most commonly due to hysterectomy).

3. In a small proportion of cases the pathology laboratory is unable to assess the cells to give a result and the test is considered inadequate. In such cases women are asked to return for a repeat test three months later.

4. An abnormal test result includes borderline changes, mild dyskaryosis (dyskaryosis is a term used to describe changes in the cells of the cervix), moderate dyskaryosis, severe dyskaryosis and potential cancer (i.e. severe dyskaryosis/suspected invasive carcinoma or suspected glandular neoplasia). A high grade abnormality includes results of moderate dyskaryosis, severe dyskaryosis and potential cancer.

5. For media enquiries or interview requests please contact the press office on 0845 257 6990 or media@hscic.gov.uk

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