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Government launches cervical screening age review

By Lilian Anekwe

The Department of Health has launched a review of the minimum age for cervical screening in a move designed to appease mounting public pressure following Jade Goody's diagnosis with terminal cervical cancer.

Health minister Ann Keen announced today that the DH will convene a panel of experts to consider the evidence for routinely screening women under the age of 25 for cervical cancer.

The clamour to lower the age for routine cervical cancer screening began in response to the publicity garnered by ex-Big Brother contestant Jade Goody, who has been diagnosed with terminal cervical cancer.

The UK cervical cancer screening programme includes women from age 25, in line with recommendations set by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the UK-based Advisory Committee on Cervical Screening.

The remit of the panel will be to consider the likely impact of HPV vaccination on future incidence of cervical cancer, find ways to increase the awareness of the symptoms of cervical cancer amongst GPs, and consider the options for offering cervical cancer – whether through a formal programme or a system of informed choice.

Professor Mike Richards, the national clinical director for cancer will co-chair the review. He said:

‘Currently in England we start to screen at 25 years, which is in line with international World Health Organisation recommendations and is supported by leading scientists in this country.

‘However it is important that we look at any emerging evidence so that we can be sure, and can assure young women, that this is still what is best for their health.

‘Early detection and treatment can prevent around 75 per cent of cervical cancers developing in women so we will also look at what more we can do to highlight the importance and benefits of screening.'

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