Just 12% of women know how HPV testing is used in cervical screening – Cancer Research UK

Mind the gap


The latest figures from NHS England (2021-2022) for cervical screening show that almost a third (30%) of eligible people

“While positive strides have been made to increase awareness of HPV, our research reveals major gaps in women’s understanding of current approaches to cervical screening,” says Professor Jo Waller, lead of the study and now Professor of Cancer Behavioural Science at Queen Mary University of London. 

“Improving awareness can help to reduce feelings of uncertainty and confusion about screening results. It will also help people understand the reasoning behind any future updates to the screening programme, such as HPV self-sampling and changes to intervals between screening appointments.”  

Screening saves lives 

Cancer Research UK has been at the heart of decades of pioneering research into understanding and preventing cervical cancer. The charity’s scientists proved the link between HPV and cervical cancer more than 20 years ago. 

Thanks to these scientific developments, including the HPV vaccine and screening, cervical cancer rates have fallen by over a quarter since the early 1990s. But it’s still important to remember that there are around 3,300 people who receive a diagnosis every year in the UK (2017-2019). 

“The cervical screening programme is estimated to save at least 2,000 lives from cervical cancer every year in the UK and this number is likely to increase thanks to HPV testing,” says Dr Julie Sharp, Cancer Research UK’s head of health and patient information. “Everyone should have equal access to screening, but barriers to participation can often lead to inequalities in diagnosis and treatment. If we’re to eliminate these inequalities, we need more research like this.”  

“It’s vital that the UK Government continues to work with individuals, communities and services to ensure that accurate information about HPV reaches those who need it.”

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