Cancer tests for older women

NEW guidelines being introduced next month, mean that women no longer have to go for their first cervical screening test as young as they used to.The latest national guidance means that women will be invited for their first smear at the age of 25.

NEW guidelines being introduced next month, mean that women no longer have to go for their first cervical screening test as young as they used to.

The latest national guidance means that women will be invited for their first smear at the age of 25.

Research has shown that screening is actually more effective at an older age.

From April 1 women aged 25 to 49-years-old will be invited for screening once every three years, and women aged 50 to 64-years-old will be invited once every five years.

Up to now, Suffolk women have been invited to attend for routine cervical screening every three years for women aged 20-64.

The change has been made on the evidence of Dr Peter Sasieni from Cancer Research UK, which was published in the British Journal of Cancer in July 2003; the advisory committee of the Cancer screening programmes subsequently accepted the paper.

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The study questioned giving smears to women under 25 as cervical cancer is extremely rare in people of that age and often picked up false positives – women who appear to have early signs of cancer but in fact do not.

Experts believe that the benefits of picking up such a small number of cases are outweighed by the stress caused by so many false diagnoses.

All the Primary Care Trusts in Suffolk have approved the changes.

Women who are under 25 who have already had a smear will continue on the three yearly recall, the system will just not issue any first invites to younger women. Women over 50 will remain on three yearly recall until they have their next smear, thereafter they will move to five yearly recall. The call / recall register will issue women with an invitation a month before they are due to attend, to enable them to be screened within five years.

Dr Amanda Jones, Director of Public Health for Suffolk Coastal Primary Care Trust, said: " We have an excellent track record in Suffolk for both cervical screening and breast screening – each year we exceed the national percentage average for take-up of invitations to attend screening, in some cases by as much as 10%.

"This new national approach to cervical screening is based on sound evidence and thorough research, and we hope that women in Suffolk will continue to take up their invitations for screening so positively."

n. Do you think screening should be extended for more types of cancer?

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