If every eligible woman attended regular cervical screenings, 83% of cervical cancer deaths could be prevented, a Cancer Research UK study has found.
The new research, published in the British Journal of Cancer, is the first to establish the impact that screening has on deaths from cervical cancer by using screening information.
The researchers at Queen Mary University of London studied the records of more than 11,000 women in England who had been diagnosed with cervical cancer.
In England around 800 women die from cervical cancer each year and this new study suggests that without screening an additional 1,827 more women would die from the disease.
But if all women aged between 25 and 64 were screened regularly, an extra 347 lives could be saved.
The biggest impact of screening is among women aged between 50 and 64 where there would be five times more women dying from cervical cancer if there were no screening.
As well as helping to pick up the disease at an early stage, screening can also prevent cervical cancer from developing.
The researchers estimated that there would be more than twice the number of cervical cancers diagnosed if there were no screening programme.
Professor Peter Sasieni, lead researcher based at Queen Mary University of London, said: “This study looked at the impact of cervical screening on deaths from the disease and estimated the number of lives the screening programme saves each year.
“Thousands of women in the UK are alive and healthy today thanks to cervical screening. The cervical screening programme already prevents thousands of cancers each year and as it continues to improve, by testing all samples for the human papilloma virus (HPV), even more women are likely to avoid this disease.”
Cervical cancer screening is offered in the UK to women aged between 25 and 64. The screening programme invites women every three years between the ages of 25 and 49, after which they are invited every five years until they’re 64.
Dr Claire Knight, health information manager at Cancer Research UK, said: “Whether or not to go for screening is an individual choice, but Cancer Research UK recommends women take up the offer to attend cervical screening when invited.
“It’s important to remember that cervical screening is for women without symptoms.
“Women who have any unusual or persistent bleeding, pain, or change in vaginal discharge – even if they’ve been screened recently and whatever their age – should get it checked out by their GP.”