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Cervical cancer awareness campaign targets GPs and nurses

Published on 26/06/09 at 08:17am

GPs and practice nurses are to be targeted in a government awareness campaign to ensure cervical cancer is spotted earlier in young women and referred correctly.

It follows a review by the Advisory Committee on Cervical Screening (ACCS), which recommended that the Department of Health created new guidance on the management of these patients.

National director for cancer Professor Mike Richards said: "We know that early diagnosis is key to improving survival chances.

"We will develop guidance to support GPs and practice nurses so that young women with cervical cancer are diagnosed at the earliest opportunity."

The ACCS also said more work was needed around the treatment of symptomatic patients, but that the current screening age of 25 will not be lowered.

That "can do more harm than good", said ACCS chairman Professor Henry Kitchener.

Evidence suggests that treatment following screening below this age can lead to increased risk to women's unborn babies through premature birth. There would also be more abnormal results, causing anxiety and leading to unnecessary investigations.

In addition, the ACCS said there should be an audit of young cervical cancer sufferers, looking at their symptoms prior to diagnosis.

More work must also be done to increase screening uptake in women aged 25 to 34, the review stated.

Health minister Ann Keen this week said she fully supported the review's conclusions.

Cervical cancer has already hit the headlines this year. The "Jade Goody effect", a reference to the reality TV star who contracted the disease, had seen interest in cervical cancer rise following her death in March.

NHS screening programmes said some laboratories reported a 20-50% increase in demand for smear tests.

Cervical cancer remains very rare in women aged under 25 - accounting for just 2.4% of all cases in England during 2006.

The ACCS is now set to consider how to improve the treatment of symptomatic patients, with a particular focus on women under 25.

It is expected to then make further recommendations to the Department of Health.

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