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Calls for uniformity

Charity calls for standardised cervical screening throughout the UK

Charity calls for standardised cervical screening throughout the UK.

Sexual health charity Marie Stopes International has called for cervical screening programmes across the UK to be standardised.

Women in England currently have to wait until they are 25 before screening begins, yet in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales testing starts when women reach 20 years old.

The call, which marks the start of European Cervical Cancer Prevention Week, follows news that former reality TV star Jade Goody, who was diagnosed with cervical cancer last year, has just months to live.

"The recent high profile case of Jade Goody, who is battling the most virulent form of cervical cancer at just 27 shows that the disease, whilst extremely rare among women under 30 is nevertheless a potential threat," said Liz Davies, Marie Stopes International's director of UK and Europe.

"Certain lifestyle choices which are increasingly common among younger women and teenage girls, such as smoking and having unprotected sex from an early age, can increase the risk of developing cervical abnormalities. Bringing screening in England into line with the rest of the UK can only prove to be a beneficial move," she added.

Vaccination programme
In a recent announcement, health minister Ann Keen, reiterated the government's commitment to improving cervical screening in the UK, and said the Department of Health would continue to review the case for lowering the age for cervical screening in England.

Last year the government announced that all girls aged 12-13 would be vaccinated against the HPV virus, which is a major cause of cervical cancer, and older girls would be vaccinated as part of a catch-up programme.
Marie Stopes International believes however that the introduction of such a programme increases the need for women to be tested at an earlier age and for uniformity in screening across the UK.

"The vaccination only protects against certain forms of the HPV virus. Our fear is that young girls who are being vaccinated now may think they are completely protected, which is simply not the case. It makes sense to start them thinking about their cervical health as early as possible, and universal screening from the age of 20 is a key strategy in achieving that," said Davies.

17th February 2009

From: Healthcare

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