This site is intended for health professionals only

Number of women tested for cervical cancer in England falls

A total of 3.3 million women aged 25 to 64 in England were tested under the NHS Cervical Screening Programme in 2009-10 compared to the previous year's peak of 3.6 million, an NHS Information Centre report shows today.

The fall relates to women aged 25 to 49, where the number tested fell from 3.0 million to 2.6 million, according to Cervical Screening Programme, England, 2009-10.

However, overall coverage - the percentage of eligible women aged 25-64 screened at least once in the last five years - has remained the same for both years at just under 80%.

The total number of women invited fell for all groups aged between 25 and 49 with the exception of the 25 to 29 year olds, where there was an increase of nearly 49,000 women invited (to reach just under 807,000).

The number of women tested fell for all groups aged between 25 and 49, who are invited every 3 years. For 25 to 29 year olds, the decrease was just under 23,000 (falling to just under 566,000)

The report also shows that in 2009-10:

  • The number of women invited in the 25 to 49 age group fell overall by just under 124,000 (to just under 3.3 million), while the number tested fell by just over 354,000 (to just over 2.6 million). Coverage (the percentage of eligible women screened in the last 3.5 years) however increased; from 72.5% to 74.0%.
  • The number of women invited in the 50 to 64 age group (who are invited every five years) increased by just over 172,000 to reach 816,000, while the number tested increased by nearly 19,000 to reach nearly 669,000. Coverage (the percentage of eligible women screened in the last 5 years) fell slightly from 80.0% to 78.9%.
  • 44.6% of test results were sent out by primary care organisations to women within two weeks of screening, compared to 21.4% the previous year. 
  • Six of England's 10 Strategic Health Authorities (SHAs) achieved 80% or more coverage among women aged 25-64. East Midlands SHA reported the highest coverage at 82.1%, while London SHA reported the lowest at 73.9%.

NHS Information Centre Chief Executive, Tim Straughan, said: “Screening is vital to catch changes to the cervix which may develop into cervical cancer. This report is important in helping NHS professionals and the public understand what percentage of eligible women is being screened.

“The 2008-09 peak in numbers attending screening, which may be due in part to publicity surrounding the late Jade Goody's battle with cervical cancer, appears not to have been sustained this year.”

“The report also tells us a greater percentage of women are finding out their test results faster; as the percentage of results being sent out within two weeks of screening has more than doubled in a year to reach just under 45%.”

NHS Information Centre