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New cervical cancer diagnosis guidance

The UK Department of Health has published new guidance to help GPs in the early diagnosis of cervical cancer in young women

The UK Department of Health (DH) has published new guidance to help GPs in the early diagnosis of cervical cancer in young women, announced Health Minister Ann Keen.

Although the age range for cervical screenings will remain at 25-64, GPs will be given flow charts determining the key symptoms and required actions in suspected cervical cancer in young women. The NICE Referral Guideline for Suspected Cancer (2005) is also re-emphasised, with full pelvic examinations recommended for any women who experiences abnormal bleeding. The new guidance also suggests this procedure could be performed by a practice nurse experienced in cervical screening.

Director of cervical cancer charity Jo's Trust, Robert Music, said: "The impact of cervical cancer on a woman's life and that of her family cannot be overstated. We hope this guideline will result in earlier recognition of symptoms, earlier diagnosis and a better outcome for women diagnosed with cervical cancer."

The guidelines were produced after a working group, consisting of Advisory Committee on Cervical Screening (ACCS) members, the voluntary sector, a patient and invited experts, was set up to look at the problems in late diagnosis of the disease in women under 25.

The working group confirmed these delays, which were four to six months in some cases, ascribing such late diagnoses to the relatively common symptoms of abnormal vaginal bleeding being more likely attributed initially to dysfunctional bleeding, or to be related to oral contraceptive use. Such assumptions often mean it can be some time before full pelvic examinations are carried out.

Cervical cancer remains relatively rare in women under 25, with around 50 cases diagnosed each year in England, accounting for just over 2 per cent of all cases.

Keen said: "The independent Advisory Committee on Cervical Screening told us that screening women under the age of 25 did more harm than good but that more work needs to be done to ensure patients with symptoms are treated correctly.

"That is why this new guidance will support GPs and practice nurses to identify symptoms and refer where necessary to specialist services."

Chairman of the Royal College of General Practitioners, Professor Steve Field, was also pleased with the new guidelines: "We welcome this new guidance; it is a really positive step that will assist us in making earlier diagnoses for younger women aged 20-24, which will in turn improve the outcomes for those at risk, and ultimately save lives."

4th March 2010

From: Healthcare

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