Women to be screened later for cervical cancer in Scotland and Wales

Women will be invited for cervical cancer screening later than at present in Scotland and Wales under potentially controversial plans from the UK's screening body.

Cervical smear test (SPL)
Cervical smear test (SPL)

GP broke the news in January that the UK National Screening Committee (NSC) was set to introduce a UK-wide policy cervical cancer screening policy later in the year. This was due to raise the screening age from 20 to 25 in Scotland and Wales. England has screened from age 25 since 2003.

Now, this proposal has been confirmed by the committee. The NHS and the public will be asked for their views in a consultation that will run until August.

A UK NSC report published Thursday recommended that 'the age of first invitation for cervical screening be raised to 25 in Wales and Scotland on the basis that there is evidence of a large number of women screened and treated with relatively little benefit below this age'.

In addition, screening for women aged 50-64 will be undertaken five yearly if the plans are accepted.

The decision is likely to be controversial among some campaigners who have argued for younger screening age to catch more cases of the potentially fatal disease.

In its January review, the UK NSC said evidence showed that screening at aged 20-24 was substantially less effective in preventing cancer and advanced-stage tumours.

It is believed that precancerous changes commonly found in young women most often resolve on their own.

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