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PHE launches cervical screening campaign as attendance falls to 20-year low

Public Health England (PHE) is launching the first national government campaign urging women to attend their cervical screening.

One in four eligible women do not take up their smear test invitation, PHE found in new research. But nine in 10 women said they would be likely to take a test that could help prevent cancer.

The new campaign, ‘Cervical Screening Saves Lives’, will encourage women to respond to their cervical screening invitation letter and book an appointment at their GP practice if they missed their last screening.

Running throughout England for eight weeks (from 5th March until 28th April), the campaign also aims to reassure women that the screen is not a test for cancer and will offer tips on how to make the experience more comfortable.

It will include new advertising on TV, posters and social media, as well as information cards and posters distributed through GP surgeries and pharmacies.

Two women die every day of cervical cancer in England, but it is estimated that 83% of cervical cancer cases could be prevented if everyone attended screening regularly. 

PHE research found that eight in 10 women who had been screened said they were glad they went and that they were put at ease by the nurse or doctor carrying out the test.

Professor Anne Mackie, director of screening programmes at PHE, said there is ‘major concern’ that ‘millions of women are missing out on a potentially life-saving test’.

She said: ‘We want to see a future generation free of cervical cancer but we will only achieve our vision if women take up their screening invitations. This is a simple test which takes just five minutes and could save your life. It’s just not worth ignoring.’

Steve Brine, public health minister said: ‘It is a tragedy that women are needlessly dying of cancer when a simple test can identify any risks early on. We hope this new campaign - the first of its kind in this country - will save lives and I am delighted to see it launch today.

‘Improving cancer detection and diagnosis is a core part of our Long Term Plan for the NHS and from April, any patients with suspected cancer will begin to receive a diagnosis or the all clear within 28 days, and £200m is being invested to fund new ways to rapidly detect and treat cancer.’