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Cervical Cancer

The UK NSC policy on Cervical Cancer screening in women


Type Adult
Last review completed November 2012
Next review due in 2015/16
Policy recommendation     Systematic population screening programme recommended

Screening is recommended by the UK NSC. It recommended in November 2012 that the age of first invitation for cervical screening should 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. Screening for women aged 50-64 should be undertaken five yearly. 

A number of Questions and Answers have been written to help explain the rationale for starting screening at age 25 rather than 20.

Key downloads Last external review - Age of first invitation for Cervical Screening and frequency of invitation for women aged between 50-64 years

What is screening?

Screening is a process of identifying apparently healthy people who may be at increased risk of a disease or condition. They can then be offered information, further tests and appropriate treatment to reduce their risk and/or any complications arising from the disease or condition. It is important to ensure that the benefits and downsides of screening have been properly thought through. The UK National Screening Committee (UK NSC) is responsible for reviewing screening policies every 3 years and making recommendations to ministers in the 4 UK countries about whether to not a screening programme for a certain condition should be set up.

» Find out more about screening, the role of the UK NSC or the policy review process

More about Cervical Cancer

The cervix is the lower part (or neck) of the womb, made of muscle tissue. It is the entrance to the womb from the vagina. Cancer of the cervix is a relatively rare type of cancer. In the UK, approximately 2,800 women are diagnosed with it each year.

position of the cervix

Image © Clinical Skills Ltd and provided courtesy of Cancerbackup.

» Read more about cervical cancer on NHS Choices

» Read more about cervical cancer on Cancerbackup

Screening in the UK

Compare how screening is offered across the UK.

Policy stakeholders

The British Association for Cancer Research
British Association for Cytopathology
British Association of Surgical Oncology
The British Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology
Cancer Research UK
Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust
Royal College of Nursing Colposcopy Nurses Group
Royal College of Physicians
Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh
Royal College of Surgeons

The stakeholder groups will be involved when the policy is next reviewed. If you think your organisation should be added, please contact us. More about the policy review process, including the role of stakeholders, can be found in the guide to Engaging with the UK NSC's policy review process.

Related documents

icon Appendix 1: Welsh discussion paper on cervical screening policy (PDF document, 638KB, 10/05/12)
icon Appendix 2: Comparison of screening from age 20 and age 25 (PowerPoint presentation, 119KB, 10/05/12)
icon Summary and consultation responses for age of first invitation for cervical screening and frequency of invitation for women aged between 50 to 64 years paper (PDF document, 8.52MB, 11/12/12)

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